P is for Postpartum Depression
You've planned, hoped, and dreamed for this baby. You bought all the teensy tiny newborn clothes, decorated the nursery, and hurdled the trial of labor through to motherhood! So, why can't you stop crying?
While it's normal to experience something called the "baby blues," this is usually a brief bump in the road. Baby blues isn't as serious, only lasts a few days, and is usually due to the fluctuations of hormones after childbirth and delivery. 70-80% of women experience the baby blues, making it fairly common. Postpartum Depression or Anxiety affect 20% of new moms, so it is less common but much more serious.
- You're crying all the time
- You may feel moody or dependent on others
- You also might be irritable, anxious, forgetful
- Lasts about two weeks after giving birth
- Your symptoms are severe, see list below
- You would describe them as worse than being sad
- These symptoms interfere with your day-to-day functioning
- Usually emerges 2-3 months after giving birth.
What's Not Normal
With Postpartum Depression, you may experience sadness (crying a lot), insomnia, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in usual activities, feeling worthless, incompetent or inadequate to cope with your baby, fatigue, weight gain or weight loss. Although it usually presents within a couple months, it can present at any time within a year after giving birth.
You may also be feeling angry or guilty because of feeling this way, and it's important to understand that you are not alone and that there is help available. This doesn't have to be the way things are. At it's worst, it may even lead to thoughts of hopelessness and sometimes even thoughts of harming the baby or yourself. If you are suffering like this, skip to the bottom of the post to get help now.
What is Postpartum Anxiety?
Postpartum Anxiety is also very common but less talked about, the different symptoms you may experience are trouble concentrating, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, excessive worry about the baby's health, sudden mood swings, or panic attack (heart palpitations, sweating, hot flashes, racing thoughts, hard to breathe)
I wanted to break this post up a little bit and share my experiences with you. When I planned the birth of my daughter, I simply went into the hospital for an induction thinking that was normal and the right thing to do. I never even questioned it! I didn't see the value or waiting or weighing the risks, whether that be mental, physical, or emotional risks.
I arrived for my induction at 8 AM one morning showing zero signs of being ready for labor. I was 38 weeks along at the time, and the process took forever! I was completely exhausted by the 18th hour of labor, and I was just thankful it was over with. My daughter went to the nursery to be checked out and washed by the nurses, and my husband went with her. I was alone. This was really traumatic and I missed the initial bonding with my daughter completely.
Heading home from the hospital, I was on cloud nine! I had made it past the scary maternity experience, through the induction process and countless contractions, I was back in my sort-of normal pants (plus what felt like a mom sized diaper) and was headed home. I thought most of the ordeal was over!
The first week at home I was loved, surrounded by friends and family, and my husband was home. After the second week, my husband went back to work and all of a sudden, it was really quiet. My daughter and I were left to figure this whole bonding thing out, that maybe I had even been letting other people handle that for me for a little bit.
I suddenly found myself unable to handle anything. I don't remember a gradual slide. It was more like an unexpected shock of cold water. I was heartbroken, confused, angry, distracted, and bitter. I was pissed! I did all that work (morning sickness included!) and I couldn't find joy in my new role as a stay at home mom.
If this sounds confusing, it was. I couldn't stand the sound of my daughter's cries. It was panic inducing, like nails on a chalkboard. Nursing her became something I dreaded rather than enjoyed, curling my toes and trying to help her tiny self learn how to latch. I was resentful of my husband, going back to work and leaving me with this mess.
I was honestly beating myself up over it. Losing my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter before we even made it to 3 months nearly made me lose my mind. She was so tiny, and I was so angry with myself and my body. I remember her trying to latch on to me during a bath after my milk had dried up, and calling my husband into the bathroom sobbing so he could hold her while I cried.
Things did get better.
It took a long time, a lot of soul searching, and a lot of support. My family was my support system. When I found it a year later, while pregnant with my son and again terrified, my Doula community truly saved me. They helped me get through until I could see the light on the other side. They helped me grow through seeking a natural birth, and supported me long after the birth so I had the experience I wanted.
There is no magic solution, my experience was long and had many twists and turns along the way. What I hope you take from my experiences is that we all are making the best choices we have with the information we have at the time, and that I truly understand what you are going through. I've been there.
"What did I do wrong?"
I hear all the time from moms that they should have had a natural birth, they should have worked out certain emotions before having kids, or that they must have done something wrong along the way to deserve this horrible experience.
We don't know what causes these conditions exactly, but the cascade of hormones during labor (possibly interrupted by interventions), traumatic birth experiences, poor postpartum support, and family predisposition to depression or anxiety may all be possible factors.
It's not something that you made happen or anything you did that made depression happen! But there are things that can comfort you, help you feel understood, and get you through this tough time.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I would warmly urge you to get help now. There are abundant free resources out there for self help, nutrition, exercise, meditation, group support, and books.
Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale Self Evaluation Only
Paid support includes medication, professional counseling, and other methods of therapy like Cognitive Behavior Therapy or EMDR Therapy. Contact your doctor for medication options and specific referrals to local specialists.
For emergency situations and severe symptoms, please don't wait to contact a professional to get support you need. For more information on this subject, postpartum support, or any motherhood questions in Delmarva, feel free to comment or get in touch with me directly.