In many ways, having a newborn is turning out to be what you expected. The sleepless nights, the constant feedings along with the awe and wonder of this new little being.
But what if those warm and fuzzy feelings you expected to come with this new life are not there? What if the way you feel is so much the opposite? These are questions that circled my brain shortly after having my first child in late 2009. Although I did not get treatment for PPD, I am now fully aware that postpartum depression crept into life with my newborns and at the time, I didn’t even notice!
I can’t go back in time but I can let you know what I have come to learn and it gives me hope that moms can get through PPD without feeling isolated and alone in their struggle!
Here are six important things that I’ve learned about postpartum depression that you should know:
Having the “baby blues” is a term I didn’t often hear during my pregnancies and if I did, I would directly relate it to postpartum depression. It is entirely reasonable to be worried, exhausted and even unhappy at times. Never the less, there is a distinct difference between having a case of the blues and postpartum depression. The variance is the fact that baby blues (feelings of being overwhelmed, sadness, trouble sleeping, anxiety and crying) only last a few days or up to two weeks. Postpartum depression develops weeks or months after the birth of your baby, the symptoms are more prolonged and intense as well as affect your ability to care for your baby.
The first thing you need to be aware of and completely honest about are the factors that put you at a higher risk for PPD. These include but are not limited to recent stressful life events, family history of major depression or mental illness, personal history of anxiety or mood difficulties, medical complications, expectations of yourself or those of your partner and a lack of support from family and friends.
Postpartum depression can start in the weeks, months or even up to a year after the baby is born. Symptoms include:
· Difficulty bonding with your baby
· Increased or decreased appetite
· Severe mood swings or feelings of intense irritability and anger
· Crushing fatigue, loss of energy, insomnia or sleeping too much
· Ability to make decisions or sort your thoughts becomes difficult
· Anxiety, panic attacks, thoughts of harming yourself (suicidal thoughts) or your baby
· Distress of not being a good enough mother or feeling worthless, shameful, guilty or inadequate
· Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
It has become very apparent that any mom can get postpartum depression. In recent years celebrity moms who have dealt with PPD have spoken up and shared their thoughts and lives on the issue. Maybe I was hidden under a rock when I began having children but looking back I was most definitely uninformed on the subject, and I feel like it’s something that gets the attention of moms today that it wasn’t getting almost a decade ago.
Sometimes we can put ourselves in boxes, and we believe that certain things can’t affect us. We ignore the signs something could be wrong. It could be pride or merely thinking “that won’t happen to me because of x, y, z.” As I continued to ignore and deny that I had postpartum, things were not getting better.
Postpartum depression is not concerned about your age, social status, the degree of your happiness or even your gender. That’s right; postpartum affects dads as well. “Having it all” doesn’t disqualify you!
When women become mothers, we have this overwhelming sense of having to be able to handle it all, and when it becomes apparent that we can’t, we tend to beat ourselves up. If we admit we have postpartum, it can seem like we are defeated, that we failed our natural calling to be a nurturing mother.
If I have learned anything, there is no room for shame in dealing with postpartum; this is not something you caused or had any control over happening to you. An estimated 1 in 4 mothers experiences postpartum depression while 1 in 10 fathers experience the same. The best thing you can do? Get to your family doctor who can provide you with direction on next steps.
There are also many ways to help yourself at home and lessen postpartum symptoms. Try to get as much sleep as possible, eat a balanced diet, get in some light exercise. Seek out support from family and friends or find some local mom groups. You are never alone in anything even if it may seem that way!
Having PPD and getting help does not make you any other kind of mom but a great one! By helping yourself, you are helping the loved ones around you, especially your precious babe. As I look back on those early months with my babies, I now know that I could have used the help myself and wish I had gotten it. I muddled through and came out the other side, but it could have been much easier had I just done some extra research and left my shame and pride behind. I can only hope that by sharing these important things with you that you can get on track quickly and without the unnecessary muddling!
Melissa Irwin is a freelance blogger and writer for hire, balancing business and being a stay at home mom. She has knowledge, is passionate and takes personal interest in blogging, parenting, real estate, living a Christian life and healthy eating and fitness. While she has dealt with postpartum depression following two of her three children, she is zealous about sharing and helping other moms overcome the stigma and shame associated with the illness.