We’ve probably all heard the term “postpartum depression” at some point or another. But do you really understand enough about it to be able to help a friend, family member or even yourself when suffering from this illness?
Yes, postpartum depression is an actual illness. It’s a clinical form of depression, and it affects between 5 – 25% of new mothers. However, it’s mistakenly self-diagnosed as “baby blues” more often than it should be. While baby blues can be a challenge, the feelings of isolation, tearfulness, lack of concentration and headache normally last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. After this time, everything seems to fall back into place naturally.
This is not the case with postpartum depression however. Being pregnant is normally such a joyous experience for the mother to be. She has the wonderful experience of having this beautiful baby growing inside her for 9 months. There is, unfortunately, another side to this joy. Being pregnant is quite strenuous on your body as it gets used to the various adjustments it needs to make to keep your baby safe. A healthy mother who avoids stress, smoking and alcohol will be more likely to experience childbirth well and adapt easily to her new role.
Now, just because we say childbirth is experienced well doesn’t mean it’s easy by any means. The physical stress from giving birth is one of the main reasons why postpartum depression occurs. The next usual postpartum depression trigger is the hormonal rollercoaster our bodies experience after childbirth. Another possible trigger could be experienced by women who hesitated about having a child, or those who weren’t yet ready for motherhood.
The symptoms most often related to postpartum depression include, but aren’t limited to:
- Low self-esteem
- Sleep disturbances
- Lack of energy
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Feelings of inadequacy
If you happen to be experiencing any of these symptoms any time between approximately one month and a year following giving birth, it’s important to seek medical help immediately. Besides the obviously ill-effects for the new mother, postpartum depression can also prove to be harmful to the baby. There have been occasions when new mothers suffering from postpartum depression began to experience serious ill feelings toward their children. There are actually cases on record where mothers were suffering so severely from postpartum depression that they actually ended up murdering their children. It’s possible that mothers suffering from postpartum depression may blame their child for many things that a mother without postpartum depression could easily handle on their own. That’s why there is such an urgency to consult a physician regarding your symptoms. The sooner you see your doctor, the sooner they can get you started on a treatment schedule to help deal with your condition. Treatment may include therapy with a reputable therapist in your area, medication for depression and/or anxiety, or a combination of both.
It’s important to remember this is a medical condition. This isn’t related to something you did or didn’t do. This is not your fault, or the fault of anyone else. Following your doctor’s suggestions will give you the opportunity to feel more like yourself again in a quicker period of time. Then you can get back to enjoying your new baby, and the happiness that motherhood brings.