Postpartum depression (PPD) is a very real and serious problem faced by new mothers. I had the opportunity to speak on PPD as a guest speaker at “New Mom, New You: Learn to Lovingly Reclaim Your Body, Time, and Relationships.” This was a one-day virtual event hosted by Stephanie Radler in May 2021.
These events and others are so important to start more conversations on PPD by showing parents they are not alone.
There are scientific reasons for occurrences of PPD, and several effects are experienced by not only the mother but also the rest of the family. On a more positive note: there are several solutions, and these feelings can be addressed and overcome.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Many mothers experience something known as the “baby blues” after giving birth. The symptoms of this can include worry, anxiety, tiredness, and crying spells.
However, these symptoms usually start a few days after giving birth and last for anywhere up to two weeks. This is quite a normal experience felt by moms, and it will get better with time.
In other cases, some moms experience these symptoms more intensely and for a longer period. This is usually when the baby blues turn into depression. This can have severely negative effects on the mother and the rest of the family if it is left untreated.
PPD is a completely normal occurrence, and moms should never feel at fault or as though there is something wrong with them. Depression can affect anyone at any time. At least one in eight women experience symptoms of this type of PPD after giving birth.
As with any other types of depression, these mental conditions can be treated and you can overcome those unwanted feelings.
Causes and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
There are several reasons a mental health disorder such as PPD occurs in mothers. The only way to be certain about the causes of your depression is to consult a professional who will be able to determine the factors that led to your depressive feelings.
However, these are some of the common causes for mothers to experience this:
Hormonal changes during pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels rise and then rapidly drop after giving birth. This sudden change can lead to depressive feelings in some women.
A history of depression can also lead to another bout of depression after childbirth. If any form of depression runs in the family, this could also be a determining factor.
Different forms of stress are often linked to depression after giving birth. If you or anyone in the family was against your pregnancy, or if you weren’t well-looked after during the pregnancy, this could lead to depression once the baby is born.
You may also feel more stressed if you are relatively young when you give birth to your first child. The worries of motherhood could affect you at this stage.
The symptoms are closely linked to other types of depression, and they are often similar. These symptoms may be harder to detect because many women will experience the following after childbirth due to baby blues:
- Sleep problems
- Lowered libido
- Constant mood changes
- Changes in appetite
If these are felt along with the following, then it may be necessary to follow up with a health expert for a professional diagnosis:
- Constantly crying for no reason
- Feelings of anger and irritation
- Inability to enjoy things you used to
- Feeling uninterested in your baby
- Feeling inadequate as a mother
- Feeling worthless, helpless, or hopeless
- Thoughts of hurting your baby or yourself
- Trouble focusing and being present
How to Overcome PPD
There are three avenues you can try if you or a loved one is experiencing PPD. The type of treatment you decide on will depend on the severity of the feelings you are experiencing. The first option is good for mild symptoms and the next two are suitable for severe symptoms.
Self-care is important as everyone needs to take some time off for themselves. It is often easier said than done, and many people struggle with this element of looking after themselves.
As a new mom, it can be hard to put yourself first as you are caring for your baby and not everyone around you will know when you need a break. This is why it is important to put yourself first at times and schedule self-care moments or days when you put your own needs first.
A good self-care practice as a mother is to join a community group of other moms who support each other and organize days off together.
With any type of mental trouble, therapy is a good way to let an expert help you work through your emotions. Talk therapy will help you get to the root cause of your feelings and address these issues to help you move forward.
Finding the right therapist is essential to get the most out of your sessions, so if you feel uncomfortable with your therapist, ask them to refer you to someone more suited to your needs.
Since your hormones have been affected throughout the pregnancy, you may need to balance them again using medication. Speak to your therapist or doctor about trying hormone therapy.
Antidepressants may be needed in severe cases; however, you should choose this option with the help of a psychologist to ensure that you don’t become dependent on the pills. You should address the issues to help move past the feelings you are struggling with, and medication can help in the beginning but shouldn’t be a long-term solution.
Postpartum Depression FAQs
How long is the postpartum period?
The postpartum period is the healing journey after childbirth. It is the time when your body is in recovery and it begins right after childbirth. The length of time varies from anywhere between one month up to 100 days after giving birth.
Is it normal to cry a lot after giving birth?
Crying a lot after childbirth is a normal experience for women. It is largely due to the drastic change in hormone levels that occur after giving birth. However, if the constant crying continues beyond 10 days after giving birth, it may be a cause for concern.
Can my newborn sense my emotions?
Yes, your newborn baby will be able to feel your emotions. They are well developed in feeling emotions and they can be affected by these emotions. While a baby may not show any signs of being negatively affected while they are young, the stress can stay dormant and manifest later on in their life.
Time to Heal
PPD is a treatable occurrence and it does not make you a bad mother if you experience these feelings. As with any mental illness, it is completely out of your control and is no fault of your own.
Asking for help early on is the best way to overcome the feelings before they get even worse. Events such as Stephanie Radler’s are so important because we should speak on these issues that are felt by so many women.
Continue the conversation and speak to someone you trust if you or a loved one is experiencing any of these feelings. You will feel happy again and give the best version of yourself to your baby; you may just need some help getting there.