When I was pregnant with my little boy, I had a conversation with my husband in which I asked him to check in on my emotional state in the weeks and months following our baby’s birth. I knew that postpartum depression (PPD) could affect anyone, including me, even if I held a master’s degree in counseling psychology and had learned all about this illness. Perhaps it was because of my education that I was hyper-vigilant about any feelings of sadness that could have presented themselves after JT was born.
Thankfully, I was not affected by postpartum depression this time around, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be so lucky next time as PPD can strike with any pregnancy, regardless of past history with this medical condition. I’ve had multiple friends and parents of my clients that have suffered from this type of depression, some of whom have gotten the help they needed and some who haven’t – more often than not, those who didn’t get help simply didn’t recognize what was happening at the time. When you are in a state of sleep-deprivation, hormonal changes, and feeding a tiny human around the clock, it’s hard to know what is up from down, let alone figure out that you have PPD.
Our bodies go through unbelievable changes to make a baby from nothing- if you’ve been pregnant, you don’t need me to tell you how your organs shift inside you to accommodate something the size of a watermelon. But just like our organs shift back after the baby is born, our chemicals and hormones also need to return to their pre-watermelon levels. This change is what wrecks havoc on an already overwhelmed and zombified parent.
I hope that if we go into our pregnancies aware of the symptoms of this illness we can talk about them with our partners and family members that support us – it’s more likely that they will notice the symptoms first. New mothers may have these symptoms on most days for at least 2 weeks or longer (but talk to a professional, only they can diagnose PPD). To succinctly quote the National Institute of Mental Health, the symptoms for postpartum depression are as follows:
* Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
* Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
* Worrying or feeling overly anxious
* Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
* Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
* Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
* Experiencing anger or rage
* Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
* Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
* Eating too little or too much
* Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
* Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
* Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
* Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
Please know that although PPD more often affects a new mother (and sometimes even fathers!) in the weeks and months right after a baby is born, it can also manifest itself up to a year afterward. Is your baby 10 months? You could still get this type of depression.
Additionally, these symptoms are often felt to a degree by new parents – I’m guilty of not sleeping a few times when my baby was asleep because I worried and would thus sit and watch him sleep. The key here is that the symptoms interfere with your daily life and affect your ability to function. For example, if a new mom is so worried that she can’t sleep any time her baby sleeps but then is so tired she can’t care for her newborn (coupled with other symptoms) her family members should intervene and get her help.
So let’s go into the business of making babies knowing that our bodies sometimes need a little help getting back to normal – and that’s completely normal itself. If you’ve recently had a baby and feel like you are currently experiencing any of these, talk to a family member and seek help; again, only a professional can diagnose post-partum depression. And let’s talk about these with others so we all know what to watch out for 👍🏼
*The information on this site is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any diet or treatment decisions.