As discussed in last week’s blog post, it’s common for many new parents to experience the “Baby Blues” following the birth of their baby. Baby Blues occurs within the first ten days of the birth of the baby. During this time, parents may feel emotionally fragile or numb but gradually return to their normal selves after using some self-care techniques and allowing time to adjust to the new family dynamic.
But if your symptoms of sadness or depression last longer than two weeks or show up later in the first year of your child’s life, you may be experiencing a perinatal mood disorder such as postpartum depression (PPD).
There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but a dramatic change in hormones in a mother’s body after childbirth may contribute to postpartum depression. In addition, there are emotional issues that affect both mothers and fathers, including:
- Loneliness or isolation
- Lack of support
- Sleep deprivation
- Complications during or after birth
- Caring for a baby with colic or other health issues
- Lack of time for yourself
Identifying Postpartum Depression
Like the Baby Blues, postpartum depression is common, with up to 25% of mothers and approximately 10% of fathers experiencing prenatal or postpartum depression or anxiety. Symptoms of PPD include:
- Excessive crying
- Overwhelming feelings of anxiety, anger, and irritability
- Feeling disconnected from your family and/or baby
- Lack of interest in life in general
- Sleeping too much or not at all, trouble falling asleep after waking
- Appetite changes
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated fears about harm coming to your baby
- Possible thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
If your symptoms make it challenging to care for your baby and/or handle other daily tasks, it’s time to seek help.
On The Path Towards Wellness
Recognizing and accepting that you may be experiencing PPD is the first step in getting help. You may feel zapped of energy, or you may feel guilt and embarrassment about feeling depressed during a time when you should feel an “overabundance of joy.” But you have nothing to feel ashamed of. Postpartum depression is not your fault and you are not alone in how you are feeling. This is a time for you to take action.
- See Your Doctor: Make an appointment with your healthcare professional to discuss your feelings and symptoms. PPD is generally treated with a combination of mental health counseling and medication. Your doctor may suggest you try antidepressants, as well as provide you with counseling and home help resources.
- Connect With Others: Open up about your feelings with your partner, family, and friends. Locally, WellMama, Parenting Now!, and Daisy C.H.A.I.N. Mothering offer support groups for parents.
- Ask for Help: Brainstorm with your partner about help in getting the household work done while you care for yourself and your baby. If friends and family offers help, take them up on it and be specific about what’s most helpful for you: getting eggs from the store, bringing over lunch, or taking out the garbage. Ask for help in setting limits.
The sooner you address your feelings of depression, the sooner you can get back to feeling more like yourself and enjoying time with your family. If you’re unsure about whether you have Baby Blues, PPD, or simply sleep deprivation, check with your doctor.
Beyond PPD, mothers and fathers can also experience postpartum anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Visit WellMama or Postpartum Support International for a comprehensive checklist of symptoms as well as ways to support yourself.
This article is brought to you by Parenting Now! Parenting Educators and authors Amanda Bedortha, Claire Davis and Lynne Swartz and consultant Jay Thompson (andupdatemywebsite.com). Parenting Now! is passionate about happy, healthy families. For more information about Parenting Now! please visit their website (https://parentingnow.org/) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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