New Mothers

 

 

 

What is postpartum depression?

 

The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.

 

Experts agree there's no single cause but rather a combination of hormonal, biochemical, environmental, psychological, and genetic factors.

 

Many new moms experience the "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.

You may have postpartum depression if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

 

  • You feel overwhelmed.  Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.”  More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.”  You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother.  In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.

  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this.  You feel like your baby deserves better.  You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would.  You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.

  • You don’t feel bonded to your baby.  You’re not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines. Not everyone with PPD feels this way, but many do.

  • You can’t understand why this is happening.  You are very confused and scared.

  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you.  You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.

  • You feel nothing. Emptiness and numbness. You are just going through the motions.

  • You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there’s no real reason to be crying.

  • You feel hopeless, like this situation will never ever get better. You feel weak and defective, like a failure.

  • You can’t bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.

  • You can’t sleep when the baby sleeps, nor can you sleep at any other time. Or maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep no matter how tired you are.  Or maybe all you can do is sleep and you can’t seem to stay awake to get the most basic things done.  Whichever it is, your sleeping is completely screwed up and it’s not just because you have a newborn.

  • You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make a decision. You feel like you’re in a fog.

  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.

  • Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality.  You do yoga. You’re thinking “Why can’t I just get over this?”  You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.

  • You might be having thoughts of running away and leaving your family behind. Or you’ve thought of driving off the road, or taking too many pills, or finding some other way to end this misery.

  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.

  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.

  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

 

 

You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

 

  • Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.

  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby.

  • You are worried. Really worried.  All. The. Time.  Am I doing this right?  Will my husband come home from his trip?  Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you it doesn’t help.

  • You may be having disturbing thoughts.  Thoughts that you’ve never had before.  Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were.  They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away.  These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”

  • You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts or worries.  You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.

  • You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door?  Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?

  • You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea.  You might even have panic attacks.

  • You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless.  On edge.

  • You can’t eat.  You have no appetite.

  • You’re having trouble sleeping.  You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.

  • You feel a sense of dread, like something terrible is going to happen.

  • You know something is wrong.  You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy”.

  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.

  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you.  Or that your baby will be taken away.

 

 

Postpartum depression can begin any time during the first two months after you give birth. Symptoms may include:

 

  • Irritability or hypersensitivity

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Anxiety and worry

  • Crying or tearfulness

  • Anger

  • Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt

  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy

  • Difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep)

  • Fatigue or exhaustion

  • Changes in appetite or eating habits

  • Headaches, stomachaches, muscle or backaches

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