Despite how happy you were to be pregnant or how much you love your child, having a baby is stressful and tiring. When you factor in changing hormones, lack of sleep, additional responsibilities, and little time for yourself, you can see why most new moms experience a roller coaster of emotions after giving birth. Many moms get the baby blues – it’s a normal condition with all the changes going on. But for most women, those feelings go away within a couple of weeks of their baby’s birth. Women who experience longer periods of feeling down may have postpartum depression.
What is Normal after Childbirth?
You would expect to be over the moon when your baby is born, celebrating and visiting with your loved ones. However, instead of feeling overwhelming bliss, you feel like crying. You thought there would be happiness and joy, not anxiety and tears. These symptoms can be quite normal in new mothers. In fact, that’s why they were given the name baby blues.
Many new mothers experience some of the symptoms of baby blues immediately following the birth of their child. A woman’s hormones change drastically following childbirth, and that, coupled with exhaustion, stress, and sleep deprivation, is more than enough to cause her to feel overwhelmed and weepy. Usually, these feelings start within a couple of days of birth, peak at about a week, and then start to taper off, and are mostly gone by the second or third week postpartum.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
While the baby blues isn’t something to be overly concerned about, postpartum depression is one that shouldn’t be ignored. But, it’s sometimes difficult to identify which you suffer from.
The begin with, postpartum depression can look just like the baby blues. They do have many of the same symptoms – mood swings, insomnia, sadness, irritability, and crying without reason. The biggest differences are that the symptoms of postpartum depression are usually more severe, and they last longer. Additionally:
- You may find yourself isolating from others in your life, including family, friends, your spouse, and even your new baby.
- You may have a high level of anxiety, keeping you from sleeping or eating properly.
- You might have feelings of guilt or hopelessness or start to become overwhelmed with thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts.
All of these are serious signs of postpartum depression. If you experience any of these, it’s critical that you seek medical help.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Exactly what causes women to develop postpartum depression isn’t known. It can happen to any new mother. However, it is believed that the following factors may play a role in why some women are more likely to suffer from the condition:
- Previous history – The biggest risk factor is a previous history of postpartum depression. If you had it with a previous child, your chances of having it again are estimated to be between 30 and 50 percent.
- Genetics – Women who come from families with members who suffer from depression are more likely to have non-pregnancy-related depression, which is also a risk factor.
- Low levels of thyroid hormones – The thyroid gland is located in the neck, and it helps the body store and use energy from your diet. When thyroid hormones are lower than normal, it may contribute to developing postpartum depression.
- Fluctuating hormone levels after pregnancy – Hormones help control mood and emotions. When you’re pregnant, there are higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Then, within about the first 24 hours after you give birth, these hormones rapidly return to normal levels. This fast change can lead to postpartum depression.
Others factors that may contribute to postpartum depression include a lack of emotional support, financial uncertainty, and having an abusive relationship.
Coping with Postpartum Depression
You can do some things to help yourself and your increasing family if you suffer from postpartum depression.
#1 – Bond with Your Baby
It is important for both mother and child to develop a secure emotional attachment during those first months postpartum. Because women with postpartum depression often interact less than normal with their babies, may not breastfeed, and spend less time with them, it may be difficult to form that crucial bond. Try to attend to your baby whether you feel like it or not (unless there is a risk of harm to the baby), respond when the baby cries, smile and talk with your baby. Attachment, the emotional bonding process, is the most important task of infancy.
#2 – Accept Help and Support
Don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help. Having positive social relationships and interactions is a stress reliever. In the past, mothers of brand new babies received help from all the other women around them. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen often, and consequently, mothers feel alone and lonely. Ask for the help you need and accept it when others offer their support – whether emotional or otherwise.
#3 – Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner
Having a new baby can take a toll on a marriage or relationship. Especially if it is a first child or the mother is suffering from postpartum depression. Be sure that you keep the lines of communication open, and don’t take out your negative feelings on your spouse. Try to carve out time each day – even if it’s only 20 minutes – to focus your attention on your spouse and your relationship. Talk about your feelings and listen to his. It’s a short amount of time that can really make a difference.
#4 – Take Care of Yourself
One of the best things you can do after having a baby and suffering from postpartum depression is to take care of yourself. You have to pay attention to both your physical and emotional well-being. Let the housework go, and concentrate on doing the things that make you feel good. Ease back into exercise, practice mindfulness or meditation, do your best to get enough sleep, eat healthily, and try to get outside for a little while each day. It may seem like a lot when your world is so consumed by everything related to the baby, but it will do you a lot of good if you put some emphasis on yourself too.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Sometimes, even though you are practicing good coping skills and you have the help of your spouse and others, you may still struggle with the symptoms of postpartum depression. It may be a good idea to seek professional help for treatment. There are different avenues to consider:
- Therapy – A therapist can help you handle the new changes associated with motherhood. You may want to do individual therapy or marriage counseling to help you get through postpartum depression.
- Medication – Sometimes, the use of antidepressants is called for when dealing with postpartum depression, especially if you are not able to function adequately. Medication works best when accompanied by psychotherapy.
- Hormone therapy – Estrogen replacement helps some women with postpartum depression and is often used in combination with antidepressants. There are risks associated with hormone replacement therapy, so be sure to discuss this option thoroughly with your doctor.
The important thing to remember about postpartum depression is that it is treatable and it is temporary. With professional help, nearly all people who develop postpartum depression can overcome their symptoms and go on to have positive experiences with their new baby.