Being a new mom is exciting, but it can also be terrifying for some. Hormonal changes, shifts in relationships, and the responsibility of taking home a tiny human can feel overwhelming. But guess what…you are not alone! New moms experience a roller coaster of emotions through those first few weeks and months and for no small reason. Giving birth not only brings change to the body but changes to the mind. While we recover physically, we also need to pay attention to our mental health and at the very least, be a bit more kind to ourselves.
While we’ve all heard about postpartum depression, the tricky part can be understanding what it is and how to recognize the symptoms. Despite increased awareness and advocacy surrounding postpartum health, there seems to be a disconnect between recognizing symptoms and getting appropriate health care. For some, simply admitting they are experiencing PPD symptoms somehow signifies they are not a good mother (which is not the case!). While for others, they simply don’t have the time, assistance, or financial ability to get help for their symptoms. And sometimes, we simply put self-care off until everyone else is accounted for.
No one expects to experience PPD and moms often assume their age, race, family status, or previous pregnancies, deter it. The truth? PPD doesn’t discriminate and can manifest regardless. Approximately 70-80% of women in the US will likely experience the baby blues and 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth*. It’s important to recognize that early intervention will not only help lessen symptoms and improve overall mood but can also improve the long-term development of your child.
Symptoms can be hard to recognize.
It’s normal within the first few days for a woman to experience what doctors call the ‘Baby Blues’. This overall feeling of sadness and worry usually indicate the drop in estrogen and progesterone levels. If the ‘Baby Blues’ are still sticking around after a few weeks, it might be time to dig a bit deeper.
Symptoms such as lack in completing simple tasks, feeling overwhelmed, physical aches and pains, lack of basic self-care, sleep issues, or changes in appetite are often symptoms new moms will experience without PPD. However, it is still important to look at what this means. Am I still tired even after consistently sleeping through the night? Am I awake in bed despite being tired from the day? Sleep disturbance can manifest in many ways so discuss with your doctor if you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
One of the more confusing aspects of PPD is experiencing sadness, hopelessness, and confusion while also feeling deep love for your child. What everyone says is the most exciting time of a new mom’s life can often be confused by sporadic bouts of crying, anger, and overwhelming anxiety. Some new moms experience unexplained sadness and the feeling of wanting to be alone.
PPD can be accompanied by postpartum anxiety, becoming more than simply sadness or depression. Some women carry a constant thought that they are not capable of taking care of their child. Even more confusing can be intrusive thoughts that center around harming yourself, your child, or those around you. Many women experience negative thoughts and have increased anxiety following the birth of their child. Some women develop a form of postpartum OCD where their intrusive thoughts interfere with their daily lives so much, they take drastic measures to avoid certain situations. While all new moms have scary thoughts, “What if I drop my baby… what if my baby is kidnapped… what if my baby drowns in the tub”, it’s important to recognize when these thoughts become increasingly overwhelming and unbearable, causing a change in behavior. Remember, scary thoughts don’t simply make you a scary mom. If you are having scary thoughts during or after pregnancy make sure to discuss them with your doctor.
One of the toughest aspects of motherhood is often basic self-care. Adjusting to a new schedule, lack of sleep, and body changes can put a dent in daily hygiene. It’s important to recognize when hygiene is being ignored due to depression rather than simply a tough day with the baby. Am I not showering or brushing my teeth despite having the time? Do I feel I don’t deserve to shower? Do I no longer care what I look or feel like? While it is normal to have some ups and downs, recognizing when a consistent lack of appropriate hygiene is occurring can be a sign that depression is lingering.
Following advice while experiencing PPD can feel like mission impossible. It’s often easier said than done, especially when you simply can’t motivate to get out of bed. Begin with something simple, take baby steps, and be honest that you need and deserve help.
Motherhood is stressful and it’s ok to be struggling or overwhelmed. Our minds and bodies are expected to be a bit vulnerable during this life change. Reaching out for help will not only make your postpartum journey more enjoyable but will improve the connection with your child and spouse. Always talk to your doctor if you have questions or suspect you might be suffering from postpartum depression. PPD is not your fault and is easily treatable.
*According to PostPartumDepression.org This statistic excludes miscarriage and stillbirth.
This information does not replace medical advice. Always discuss your issues with a licensed mental health professional.
1 in 7 women experience PPD. Remember, you have options and you are not alone.