While having a baby can be a joyful and exciting event, sometimes a mother can be hit with the “baby blues”: feelings of anxiety, weepiness, anger, and mood swings. These emotions can last for a few days or weeks and they are not uncommon. But if your “baby blues” last more than a few weeks or your symptoms are particularly severe, you may be experiencing postpartum depression, which should be addressed by a doctor or counselor.
Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in approximately 1 in 9 mothers, regardless of age, number of children, or situation. PPD can have many complicated causes: a sudden change in hormone levels or other health conditions, worry about your child or your situation, lack of sufficient help, history of depression, to name a few.
Recognize the signs of postpartum depression
If you have any of the following symptoms and they go on for a month or more, you may have PPD:
- Excessive or severe mood swings, anger, sadness
- Feelings of worthlessness or failure
- Inability to bond with your baby
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and activities you love
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Excessive sleepiness or an inability to sleep that cannot be attributed to childcare
- Overwhelming fatigue or lethargy
- Inability to think clearly or as well as before
- Fear and doubt of your abilities as a mother
What you need to do
Mothers with PPD benefit from counseling and support groups. It is possible to recover from PPD without the use of medication although it should not be ruled out in severe cases. But even with medication, it is important for the mother to develop coping mechanisms and different thought patterns to help her deal with the depression.
If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, do not remain silent. Tell your loved ones how you are feeling and share with them the level of severity of your symptoms so as not to brush them off as “baby blues.”
For some women with mild PPD, finding a friend who understands or a PPD support group can help to speed her recovery. But for some, this is not enough. This is where a good counselor comes in. A counselor with expertise in PPD can help you understand your feelings, develop skills to deal with those feelings, and create a plan of self-care and self-talk that will bring you out of your PPD as quickly as possible.
Developing postpartum depression does not mean that you are weak or that you are a bad person. As I remind my patients often, we are wonderful, complicated beings affected by both our biology and our interaction with the world. We also have the marvelous ability to grow beyond our difficulties and to become stronger from them. Do not hesitate to get the help you need.