Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and More
Guest Post by Nicole Gray
What to Learn About Postpartum Depression
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression, also referred to as Postnatal Depression, is a depressive mood disorder that can occur in women after childbirth. There are various risk factors of postpartum depression and if left untreated, this disorder can be detrimental to a mother and her newborn child. The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown, however, it is believed to be a combination of physical, emotional, genetic and social factors. Hormonal changes and sleep deprivation may also play a role.
It can be scary to experience postpartum depression and you may feel very alone. Always make sure to speak to your physician or a trusted friend or family member, if you think you may have depression.
What is Baby Blues
Before assuming you have postpartum depression, it is important to understand that the baby blues is very common in postpartum women. However, these symptoms only last one or two weeks after your baby’s birth.
Symptoms of Baby Blues
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty sleeping
My Experience with Postpartum Depression
After the birth of my first daughter in 2010, I experienced postpartum depression. I did not know it at the time, but looking back I see now it was quite obvious. I remember feeling very protective of my newborn. I don’t mean typical new mom protective, I mean I didn’t want anyone near her. I also felt very isolated and lonely. I did not want to see my friends and would make up excuses as to why I couldn’t meet them. I would make plans knowing that I would back out of them on the day of. I didn’t want to go anywhere with my baby because, what if she cried?
My memories of the first year of my daughter’s life are grey. Even though she was born in July, I remember grey skies. Always grey, and alone. My mom lived out of town at the time, so I didn’t have her around consistently.
I would cry out of the blue and feel extremely sad. I felt paranoid that something might happen to my baby and also felt inadequate as a mother. I wanted to nurse her but she didn’t latch, so after six months of exclusively pumping, I decided to give up. I felt ashamed of myself and like a failure.
How do you recognize postpartum depression? There are a few signs that you should be aware of and also make sure your partner is aware as well, so that he/she can spot any changes in your behavior that you may be unaware of.
- Feelings of sadness and anxiety
- Extreme mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Excessive crying episodes
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Fear that you are not a good mother
- Extreme anger and irritability
What is Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare condition that typically develops within one week of delivery. Signs and symptoms include:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Obsessive thoughts about the baby
- Excessive agitation and energy
- Thoughts or attempts to harm yourself or your baby
Postpartum psychosis is a life threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.
When To Seek Help
I gave birth in British Columbia, Canada. I have to say that my experience with my second postpartum period was amazing. I felt so much support from the doctors and nurses in the hospital and at the clinic. They knew that I had previously experienced postpartum depression and that I was currently taking medication to help me with anxiety. I knew there was always a nurse I could call if I was feeling any of the symptoms. Luckily, this time I did not. I did experience the baby blues, but it never progressed further. I believe that my medication played a role, as well as this being my second time, so I felt more confident in myself.
If you are feeling depressed after giving birth, you may feel ashamed or embarrassed, but I urge you to try and put those feelings aside and speak to a doctor or nurse. They are there to help you. Even if you are experiencing symptoms of the baby blues, it is a good idea to give your doctor’s office a call and just let them know. If you have any symptoms of postpartum psychosis, seek help immediately.
Call your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Difficulty caring for your baby
- Symptoms are getting worse and not fading after two weeks
- Do not want to get out of bed all day
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
While there is no single cause for postpartum depression, a dramatic drop in hormone levels plays a huge role. Also, you are sleep deprived and the more deprived you are, the less ability you have to cope with any situation.
Hormones: After you give birth, your hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) drop drastically. While your progesterone decreases, prolactin levels increase. Prolactin is the hormone that tells your body to make milk for the baby. You may also have decreased dopamine levels as well. All of these changes make you susceptible to feeling low mood, low energy and down.
Emotional: Whether you are sleep deprived or have pre-existing depression or anxiety, emotional issues can play a role in postpartum depression. You may have anxiety about caring for a newborn and whether you are a good mother. You may also have a hard time accepting your body or finding your identity.
Two things that I have struggled with after both of my daughters, were my ability to accept my postpartum body and finding my identity as a mother and also as myself. I needed to regain my identity as Nicole, and not just as “mama”.
How Common is Postpartum Depression?
1 in 10 women will develop postpartum depression, according to an article on the Medela website. Postpartum depression can develop as early as one week after childbirth and up to 12 months later.
What To Do When You Feel Blue
When you start to find yourself feeling weepy or feeling down, it is great to recognize this and try to help yourself express the emotions.
- If you feel like crying, give yourself permission to cry. This is a great way to release emotions.
- Speak to your partner or a trusted friend and tell them what you are experiencing.
- You won’t have a lot of time, but if you can manage to write quickly in a journal what you are experiencing, this is a great form of therapy.
- Get a counsellor to talk to.
- Exercise if you can. At least go for a walk or do some stretching.
Remember, these are just suggestions for you if you are experiencing the normal baby blues. Please speak to your physician if you are experiencing any concerning symptoms.
Remember mamma, you will get through this and you have support. You just have to make sure to access it.
Do you live or struggle with postpartum depression? Or have you experienced or witnessed it before? Tell me all about your experiences with postpartum depression in the comments. Also, don’t forget to tweet/pin this post for later