Updated: Jul 17, 2020
Hello there, NMM community! Today, we wanted to explore a little deeper some thoughts on postpartum depression (PPD). We will do a slight intro to PPD, then jump into our Facts vs. Fiction series.
Who gets postpartum depression?
- Women who are postpartum can begin experiencing postpartum depression anytime after giving birth. Some postpartum specialists extend the length of onset anywhere from birth of baby to 3 years postpartum.
- Men can also experience postpartum depression.
-Another worrisome statistic: 20-30% of new mothers report crying at times, feeling overwhelmed on occasion, have moments of despair or panic. They feel terrible. Because these new moms don’t meet full criteria for postpartum depression, they may get dismissed and told to go home to ‘ride out the baby blues.’ In fact, these moms are experiencing postpartum stress disorder. More on that in a blog to follow.
-Women and men can experience postpartum depression no matter how many babies they have welcomed, even if they have never struggled with PPD before.
What symptoms could I experience?
-Physical: headache, difficulty breathing, palpitations, fatigue, hot flashes/chills, panic attacks, nausea, upset stomach, extreme agitation, insomnia, excessive sleeping, shakiness, and many more
-Emotional: worthlessness, lack of confidence, sadness, thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, anger, anxiety, resentment, fear, confusion, oversensitivity, low self-esteem, irritability, shame, fear, loss of control, hopelessness, along with many other emotional responses
-Please ask your doctor to check your thyroid hormone and anemia levels. Many times, these physical illnesses can present as postpartum depression. It is good practice to have a full physical exam before starting therapy and/or medication.
Facts vs. Fiction:
1. “I’m not depressed because I’m not having thoughts of hurting myself or my baby”.
There is a stigma that if a mom is depressed she is having thoughts of hurting herself, or her baby. Although this can certainly be true of PPD, this is not always the case. Many moms experience PPD without suicidal or homicidal thoughts. The symptoms of PPD are wide and varied.
2. “I didn’t have that ‘love at first sight’ feeling when my baby was born, so I must not be fit to be a mother”.
Moms that struggle with PPD sometimes do not feel the warm and fuzzies at first. Attachment takes work from mamas, but remind yourself that your baby just needs YOU to show up and be there for them. Respond lovingly (and quickly) to their cries, make a goal of daily skin to skin, make eye contact when feeding, narrate your day to them, and most importantly take care of yourself so you can show up for them. These are all ways to build that attachment, and is healthy for mama and baby.
3. “Everyone has difficulty falling asleep, or sustaining sleep during the newborn stages, that’s normal! And surely, everyone feels fatigued even after resting.”
Although during the first year of your baby’s life you will lose more sleep than most other times in your life, it does not mean that with adequate rest you should continue to feel depleted. Often, when you do not feel rested even with consecutive hours of sleep, it can signal that something could be off.
4. “I don’t have any reason to be feeling this way and I have never struggled with depression before! This will just go away over time”
Often, PPD does not just go away. It takes time and professional treatment for you to feel better, and more importantly, PPD can worsen over time without professional intervention. That’s why it is so important to recognize symptoms and reach out for help.
Many mamas struggle with this specific thought because they feel guilty for their PPD symptoms and feel unworthy of being a mama, therefore continuing the vicious cycle.
Repeating the mantra “This is not my fault and can happen to anyone” may be helpful in counteracting those negative feelings of guilt when you tell yourself you have no reason to feel depressed. Because PPD can happen to absolutely anyone!
5. “I thought I, as the mother, was the only one that could feel depressed with PPD. What is happening to my husband? There is no way that he can also be depressed.”
Research shows us that 1 in 10 dads will struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Typically, men have slightly different symptoms of depression and the top ones include: anger, aggression, substance use or abuse, and isolating from their family. If you notice your husband is acting out of character and matching these symptoms, it’s time to offer to help him make a call to his doctor, or a therapist.
Thank you for reading, and if anything here resonated with you, please don't hesitate to reach out. You are not alone, and with help you can feel well again.