Finding What Is Beneath the Surface
You are a new mom, recovering from the intense transition of bringing your baby into this world. You have discovered a love you never thought possible and cannot stop staring at that tiny face that brings you so much joy.
Yet, in the midst of that happy bubble of new beginnings, something nags at the corners of your mind. You find yourself sad, wistful, frustrated, even angry. What is supposed to be one of the happiest times is shadowed by feelings you did not expect to have.
You may find yourself crying or feeling hopeless and sad and not know why. You may be irrationally frustrated or angry more often than you normally are. You might be able to notice you distance yourself from others and feel like you are the only one struggling this way.
Rest assured, even though you may feel alone, you are not. This article is for you and the countless other mothers who are faced with similar emotions and fears.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
The Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
Despite being commonly called “baby blues”, postpartum depression is a different beast entirely. Baby blues refers to the struggles a new mom faces with her emotions while her hormones are balancing out from giving birth. This typically starts three or four days after delivery and usually begins to fade after ten days, affecting 80% of mothers. Baby blues is a normal process of the female body adjusting to forming and delivering a new life.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a type of mental illness that sets in within six months of giving birth and is much more involved than baby blues. While the baby blues last a short period of time after giving birth, PPD can, and often does, last much longer. PPD affects nearly 15% of moms in the post-delivery stage, but it is manageable. Mothers can be successful while living with PPD. In this article, we give you tips to set you on the right path to recovery if you are struggling yourself.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
image source: amenclinics.com
Many people want to know what causes this depression, so they can prevent it from happening. Unfortunately, we do not know what causes PPD. However, we know several different triggers or predispositions that can help prepare for PPD if you feel you are at risk.
When your body prepares for pregnancy, goes through nine months of growing and maintaining life, and abruptly sends the new baby out into the world, your hormone levels fluctuate. When hormones fluctuate, they can cause inconsistencies in your brain that can lead to PPD. This is a perfectly natural reaction your body has, but a more difficult process for some women than it is for others.
Another trigger could be sleep exhaustion. A newborn requires around-the-clock care, meaning less sleep for mom. Losing sleep or being consistently interrupted from a healthy rest can also lead to PPD. Sleeplessness is an expected side of motherhood, but can get tricky when sleep deprivation leads to PPD - another reason new moms are always being told to sleep when the baby does.
Some women can be predisposed to PPD. It could stem from hereditary issues, environmental situations, or emotional involvement. While it can be hard to pinpoint, examples of possible predisposition include:
If you feel that you may be inclined to, or are currently suffering from postpartum depression, always discuss your concerns with your doctor. They can give you their thoughts and advice on how to prepare for the onset, including the symptoms to watch out for, a plan of action if the signs arise, and what you can expect moving forward.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
You might not have been able to put your finger on it, but you may have felt something was wrong for a while. Your instincts were alerted to something off in your body or someone close to you may have noticed changes from normal behavior and expected personality. Ask these questions of yourself or someone you think may struggle with PPD. Note the responses. Have you or someone you love been:
While these questions may raise fear, stress, worry, or even anger, it is important to carefully evaluate and answer them as honestly as possible. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Rather, it is simply something that must be identified and dealt with to avoid major repercussions down the road.
Severe cases of PPD, when left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis occurs when the mother feels like she should harm herself, her baby, or others. This can happen in the most extreme cases of PPD and, while it sounds scary, it is something to keep in mind as you watch yourself or someone you love.
The important thing to remember is that while extreme cases can happen, it is something that can be prevented and prepared for with your doctor and a solid plan of action, which we will discuss next. It is always okay to ask for help.
What Do You Do?
Make The Call
The very first thing that should be done if you feel that you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD is to contact a doctor. Only a licensed professional should be consulted to diagnose and treat something as serious as mental illness. If you feel the situation warrants a more immediate response, dial 911. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Ask the Necessary Questions
When talking with your doctor, ask as many questions as you can. There is no stupid question when it comes to the health of you and your baby, and that includes your mental health. Some things you may want to consider asking would be:
Again, do not be afraid to ask. Taking control begins when you become your own advocate, for your sake, and your baby’s.
What to Do When Diagnosed
While some women may feel relief by getting an official diagnosis and plan of action for treatment, some women may feel even more upset, frustrated, hopeless, or depressed from the news that they suffer from depression.
Talk About It
If you are feeling this way, it is best to discuss your thoughts and feelings with others. Do not just keep it all bottled up, as it could make the situation worse. While it is a great idea to have close friends and family to talk to, it would be worthwhile to look into seeing a therapist or counselor that works with and is familiar with PPD.
Talking through your emotions, your thought processes, and your mental state is healthy and can even help you manage better by verbalizing what you are feeling. One of the worst things you can do as you struggle with depression is keeping everything inside. You need a healthy outlet.
Follow the Plan
It is very important to follow the guidelines and treatment plans of the medical professionals helping you as you learn to cope with postpartum depression. Despite how it may feel, this is not a death sentence and you can live a happy and healthy life while managing mental illness, including but not limited to postpartum depression.
If you work with a therapist, often times, they help you set goals for yourself, learn specific coping mechanisms, and help you make decisions for your own mental well-being. They can guide you through healthier thinking patterns and setting up a list of things for you to do if and when you feel those negative feelings coming back to the surface.
If you do not have access to a doctor or a therapist, call as many of the hotlines listed below for additional resources available to you as you need to. You do not, and should not, have to go through this alone.
Living with Postpartum Depression
As you are learning the cues of your body and your mind when navigating your diagnosis, it may be helpful to create a list of things that you like, and a course of action to utilize if you start to feel those thoughts and feelings coming back. Your counselor or doctor may ask you to do this, but you can also do this on your own or with someone you love and trust.
Make sure you have a steady support system. Whether it is a partner, friends, family, a therapist, a mom’s group, a church, or any other social gathering, find the individuals you feel comfortable with and set them up as a person to call if, and when, you need it. As mentioned before, isolating yourself is one of the worst things you can do when battling this.
The course of action when dealing with PPD may be different for everyone, but some ideas for relaxing could be:
These are all suggestions that can be catered to your needs, personal situation, likes, and dislikes. Just because PPD is listed as a mental illness, just not mean it has to affect every area of your life.
The best practices you can do are following your healthcare provider’s guidelines, setting up a plan for coping specific to your needs, and most of all, getting help if you notice you begin to feel any thoughts of doing harm to yourself or anyone else (including the baby).
There are many places for women to get the immediate help they need, whether they have a support system and plan in place or not.
Hotlines are open twenty-four hours per day and are designed for anyone going through a crisis. They can help you get the help you need and can guide you in taking those first steps. They can give you names of businesses, therapists, and other resources closest to you, walk you through the feelings you are having at that moment, and give you information.
Some of these free hotlines include:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
The SAMHSA offers a convenient services locator, making it easy to find local resources to help manage your depression.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Just like the National Hopeline Network, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline gives people a chat option to help them feel more at ease with getting help.
You may feel like your world is falling apart at this point and that everything is hopeless with no light at the end of the tunnel. You may be frustrated with yourself over your depression, feeling like you should not be struggling when you are a mother.
This is not the case. The good news is there is hope. The worst news is you just have to figure out how to find it. For many, this may be through therapy and medication, while for others it may just be continuing to fight through the frustration until things start to feel better and more hopeful again.
Every day, women wrestle with their thoughts and emotions in relation to postpartum depression, whether they are a new mother, or having a new baby after already having several. It is important to remember, your body created something precious and wonderful! It is okay that it is a bumpy road back to feeling like yourself. Motherhood is not easy, but you are not alone. With the tips we shared here and, even more so, the help of your closest support system, you can get through this and you will get through this!