Photo Credit Creekside Center for Women, 2018
This article means so much to me as I suffered from postpartum depression with my first pregnancy. This is something serious that I feel I need to share and reach out to other moms who are going through the same thing, or even think they might have postpartum depression. Thank you for reading today.
Let’s take a minute to talk about something real.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is “depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue” (Dictionary.com, 2018). Postpartum depression is a real issue that needs to be addressed, especially among the mom community. There is no shame if you are suffering from it right now, or have in the past. Did you know that 1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression (American Psychology Association, 2018)? The CDC says that depression varies by state.
My Experience. My Story.
Unfortunately, I have suffered from postpartum depression. I used to feel shameful about it. With therapy I now know it was not my fault, and there are things you can do to help. I will talk about that later in the article as well. I want to share my story to help other moms who might be suffering.
I remember after I had my daughter (5 years ago) listening to her cry. She was colic from an unknown allergy, which we discovered about a year ago. She cried what seemed non stop. We hardly slept at night. We did not get any kind of spacial time away from her unless she was at my parents’ house (thank you mom and dad). I had to keep her on me at all times otherwise she was more unhappy and cried louder. There were times I had to just let her cry in her crib because she could cry just as easily there as she could in my arms. I needed a break. I needed 10 minutes to myself, then I would go tend to her again. She was in-consolable.
I started having panic attacks from the constant crying. Anyone who’s had a panic attack knows it feels like a heart attack in your chest and you can’t catch your breath. I was having these randomly throughout the day too. It would knock me to my knees and I couldn’t get up. That is when I decided to seek help. It was the best thing I did for myself and for my daughter. My husband, bless his heart, was so supportive through it all (thank you husband). I got a part-time job to get myself out of the house and away for a bit. I started going on walks with our dog by myself to have that moment of clarity. This is what worked for me, but it may not for you. I will discuss some strategies further in my article.
If you have suffered from postpartum depression before please feel free to share your story below. This will help other moms as well.
How Do I Know I don’t Just Have the “Baby Blues?”
That is an excellent point! Baby blues are completely different than postpartum depression. It is so normal to feel weepy, tired, and exhausted after having a baby. The first few months are so hard, especially for first time moms (there is nothing wrong with first time moms either). You should have an increase in appetite and start molding in to that motherly role after a few weeks. You also will have good sleep when you do sleep. It’s normal to have worries throughout your thoughts and throughout your day (Bennett, S., 2016). Don’t worry, worrying about your child if you’re doing well makes you already a better parent than those that don’t.
Below is a chart to help guide your thoughts on whether or not you think you might have some issues with postpartum depression vs baby blues. Please keep in mind this is a guide, and not purposed with actual diagnosing your symptoms online. As always talk to your doctor if you think you might have postpartum depression.
Symptoms and Signs of Postpartum Depression
Let’s talk about symptoms and signs of postpartum depression. You may be reading this wondering if you have it. If you have just given birth and feel symptoms of hopelessness, sadness, exhaustion with sadness, and having a hard time coping with daily life you might have postpartum depression (National Institute of Mental Health, 2018). You could also be feeling overwhelmed, feeling anxious, crying a lot more than normal, over sleeping, or having disinterest. Make sure you do not confuse these with baby blues. If it is baby blues you should start feeling better in a couple weeks after giving birth.
For me the disinterest is what gave it away that there was a problem. My daughter would cry, and sometimes I literally did not care. I didn’t have that motherly instinct to help her. I would just lay there in bed crying. I knew at that moment it was time to do something to help myself and our child.
Please seek help right away if you are unable to help your baby because of your depression. This is a serious condition.
Please look over this chart and see if you have a significant majority of these signs:
How Does Someone Get Postpartum Depression?
I’m glad you asked. A lot of people are actually unaware of what it is and how someone “gets it”. It is not a disease, or a virus. It is nothing along those lines. It’s not even “regular” depression. They are both clinically different forms of depression. Yes, they share a lot of common symptoms, but they are different.
Clinical Depression Causes
Well, first and foremost clinical depression is not caused by just having a baby. Did you know that depression is hereditary (Meaney, M., 2015)? Let me also clarify this. You can develop depression from other ways. It doesn’t have to just be hereditary (ie. bullying, anxiety, down in life, etc).
Many people suggest depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. This is only half true. “To be sure, chemicals are involved in this process, but it is not a simple matter of one chemical being too low and another too high. Rather, many chemicals are involved, working both inside and outside nerve cells. There are millions, even billions, of chemical reactions that make up the dynamic system that is responsible for your mood, perceptions, and how you experience life” (Harvard Health Publishing, 2017). So you see, there are many factors influencing depression.
Postpartum Depression Causes
“There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.
- Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.
- Emotional issues. When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2018).
Okay I Think I Have Postpartum Depression. What Do I DO Next? How is my Doctor Going to Treat it?
The first thing you should do if you suspect you have postpartum depression is contact your doctor’s office. Make an appointment. Make sure you let the nurse on the phone know what is going on so you can get in faster to help relieve your symptoms. This will help you and help your child.
Your doctor is going to ask you a series of questions. More than likely you will need to fill out a questionnaire to give the doctor more information. They may even order blood tests to make sure there isn’t another hormonal imbalance contributing to your symptoms.
Some things they will suggest are either taking medications (antidepressants), or talking to a psychologist/psychiatrist. This depends on if you want medications. I was able to talk to a psychologist and that helped tremendously. If you are uncomfortable about taking medications, like I was, I would start with a psychologist and go from there. They may recommend medication though.
Just remember to talk to your doctor if you even suspect you might have postpartum depression. It might be baby blues, or it might be more serious. Do not feel shameful if you experience any of the symptoms. This is a huge issue that needs to be discussed to help others.
As always please share your story below to help other moms and parents.
American Psychology Association. (2018). Postpartum Depression: What is Postpartum Depression and Anxiety? Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression.aspx
Dictionary.com. (2018). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-ab&q=Dictionary#dobs=postpartum%20depression
National Institute of Mental Health. (2018). Postpartum Depression Facts. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml
Bennett, Shoshana, American Pregnancy.org. (2016). Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Retrieved from http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression/
Meaney, Michael, Psychology Today. (2015) Is Depression Hereditary? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-through-research/201509/is-depression-hereditary
Harvard Health Publishing. (2017). What Causes Depression? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-causes-depression
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2018). Postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617