Aliza Septimus, PsyD
Recognizing The Signs of Postpartum Depression and Getting Help
The birth of a child is a wondrous and glorious thing. Until you bring that baby home and are responsible for keeping it alive on zero sleep for weeks and weeks. Add to this already trying scenario is the hormonal cocktail the new mother is living with and you understand why some new mothers don't feel so blissful.
While it's normal for every new mother to feel some stress and irritability in the weeks after giving birth, it is estimated that 9 to 16 percent of moms, through no fault of their own, will experience postpartum depression (PPD).
What makes some women more susceptible to PPD than others? Is it believed that a combination of things including hormones, genetics, predisposition, support (or lack of), and stress all create a perfect storm to experience PPD.
As if experiencing PPD isn't hard enough, there are actually a few myths surrounding the condition that can make a new mother feel even worse. Let's dispel those myths right now:
Myth #1: PPD starts after a woman has given birth.
Postpartum Depression can actually start while a woman is still pregnant. In fact, it is believed that in 50% of moms experiencing PPD, the symptoms began during pregnancy.
Myth #2: PPD starts immediately after giving birth.
In those instances where PPD does begin after a new mother has given birth, it is not uncommon for symptoms to begin well beyond the first four weeks. This can often take the new mother by surprise.
Myth #3: PPD is the only postpartum illness a new mother may experience.
The truth is, there is an entire collection of postpartum illnesses besides postpartum depression that a woman may experience. Less known postpartum illnesses include postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, and rarely, but sometimes experienced, postpartum psychosis. These are all challenging disorders new moms experience.
How To Recognize if you or a loved one is experiencing PPD?
Let's take a look at some of the common symptoms of PPD so you know what to be aware of:
Guilt - You feel like you should be handling the situation better. Many women feel worthless in the role of mother.
You Can't Be Comforted - With baby blues, mothers feel overwhelmed but can be comforted by encouraging words from their partner or loved ones. But with postpartum depression, reassurance feels like a lie.
You Fantasize About Escaping - While many new moms think about wanting to just get away for a week or two to get some rest and feel human again, women with PPD fantasize about leaving and never returning because they think their families will be better off. *NOTE: If you have thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek help immediately.*
You're Angry and Irritable - You snap at your partner, at the baby, at the dog, at anyone. You no longer feel in control of your own emotions.
Not every woman will experience every symptom. But if you are experiencing any of these, it's important that you get help. PPD is very treatable, so it's important that you recognize the signs, understand that you're not a bad mother, and reach out for the help you need.