What does it feel like to have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? What are the signs or symptoms? How do you know when you have it? And if you do have it, what should you do?
Postpartum depression is a serious issue for many mothers. The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. However, it can also result in something you might not expect — depression. Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first, but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin later — up to six months or even a year after birth.
Some common symptoms include: sadness, mood swings, impatience, anxiety, fatigue, restlessness, poor concentration, feeling overwhelmed, crying spells, appetite loss, eating more than usual, and sleeping troubles. In some cases there may be difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family and friends, and reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy. In severe situations, you might even have intense irritability and anger, severe anxiety and panic attacks, feelings of shame and worthlessness, and thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.
Many people have some of the issues described above every now and then, for a day or two. We all have bad days. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not just “bad days”. Women with PPD or anxiety have symptoms like these most of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer, and these symptoms make it feel very hard to live life each day. It can make a mother feel guilty because she feels she should be handling motherhood better than this and should have a bond with her baby. She may worry that her baby can tell that she feels unhappy all the time. She may even be afraid that this is her new reality and that she has lost the “old her” forever.
DEALING WITH POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
First of all, it is important to note that postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Secondly, dealing with postpartum depression is a gradual process.
Here are some tips for dealing with postpartum depression:
Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping. This allows moms to have some rest before the baby wakes up.
Don’t try to do too much or try to be perfect. Moms are already doing a good job by breastfeeding their babies and taking care of all their basic needs. Do not stress yourself further by thinking you must have a perfect kitchen, and look flawless and gorgeous like women in Mom Photoshoots on the internet. In fact good moms can have sticky floors, messy kitchens, laundry piles, a dirty oven and happy kids.
Ask your partner, family, and friends for help. Many first-time moms feel they have to be the supermom to their babies. They end up cutting everyone out. This can lead to depression as there is often a lot to do and very little time to enjoy with friends and family. Ask your spouse, friends and family to help you by doing the house chores or getting groceries. Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner. Discuss your feelings with your partner, family, and friends. They are ready to support you if you let them know how and when to come in.
Consider talking with other mothers to learn from other people’s experiences. You will find that what you are feeling or going through is not unique to you. Joining a support group in your area or community as well as doing things you enjoy doing can also be very helpful.
Recognize and acknowledge pregnancy and postpartum for the difficult time it is. Give yourselves credit for all you’re already doing, and give yourselves time to adjust and work through.
Learn all you can about pregnancy and postpartum depression and anxiety in mothers and in fathers. The more you know, the more you will see that you are not alone and that these symptoms are not your fault. Partners who learn about this together develop greater compassion and know better how to support one another.
Find qualified professionals to help treat the depression. There are counselors, support groups, medications, and alternative treatments out there that can make a huge difference in your healing. Do not quit until you find someone who is able to give you both the help you need.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF DEPRESSION IS NOT TREATED?
Untreated depression can hurt you and your baby. Some women with depression have a hard time caring for themselves during pregnancy. They may eat poorly, not be able to meet this child’s needs, not follow medical instructions or use harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs.
QUESTIONS FOR YOU
What do you know about postpartum depression?
Did you experience any PPD symptoms? If so which ones?
One of the biggest symptoms of PPD is being insecure about one’s body after childbirth. Did you experience it?
What did you do when you noticed you had these symptoms?
How long did it take you to recover from postpartum depression?
Were you worried about your body not returning to pre pregnancy time?
Was there enough support to help you through your PPD?