What Is Postpartum Depression?
Being a new parent should be a joyous and exciting experience, but for many people, that isn’t the case. Some women – and even occasionally men – develop symptoms of postpartum depression, a severe mental condition that can affect your ability to bond with your baby and take care of yourself.
Postpartum Depression Can Happen to Anyone
After giving birth, the estrogen and progesterone levels in your body drop sharply, causing mood swings. Sleep deprivation and an irregular eating schedule can add to these feelings. You may also be worried about taking good care of your new baby or anxious about how your life will change now that you are a parent. All these issues can add up to the “baby blues,” a short-term condition that can affect up to 75% of new mothers. While the isolation, moodiness and sadness associated with this condition generally subside on their own after about two weeks, for some women, they do not.
Postpartum depression is a much more severe and long-lasting condition than the baby blues, affecting up to one in 10 women after delivering a baby. You may experience unexplained crying jags, fatigue, feelings of emptiness and thoughts of harming your baby or yourself. PPD can affect any woman, regardless of income, age, cultural beliefs, education level, marital status and number of pregnancies.
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors and Symptoms
You may be more likely to experience PPD if you have ever struggled with mood disorders before, or if you have a family history of mental illness. New moms who lack sufficient social support, who struggle with marital conflict, who have untreated substance abuse issues or who were uncertain about their pregnancy may also be more susceptible to developing postpartum depression.
Warning signs of PPD include:
- Ongoing feelings of fear, guilt, anxiety, panic, hopelessness and worthlessness
- Difficulties concentrating and making everyday decisions
- Recurring thoughts of self-harm, suicide or hurting your child
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
- Reliance on alcohol or drugs to provide short-term relief from your problems
- Depressed mood most of the day, every day, for at least two weeks
Preventing and Overcoming PPD
If you are currently pregnant or hoping to become pregnant and are worried about developing postpartum depression, some proactive steps might help you avoid this condition.
- Regularly meet with a therapist before and after the baby’s birth to work through any feelings of anxiety or inadequacy related to parenting.
- If you have a partner, talk with them about your worries and fears. They are likely experiencing many of the same emotions.
- Before and after the baby arrives, eat a sensible diet rich in whole foods, fresh produce and lean protein sources.
- Expect to experience some emotional ups and downs, and don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day.
- Do not hesitate to ask others for help if you’re struggling. Tell your partner, friends and family members what you need, whether it’s watching the baby while you shower or picking up a few chores around the house.
- Maintain healthy habits – get as much sleep and exercise as you can, and avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Cut down on less pressing responsibilities. Be realistic about what you can do while taking care of yourself and a newborn baby.
Is It Time to Get Help?
If left untreated, postpartum depression symptoms may get progressively worse. Some women start to imagine their loved ones would be better off without them, and sadly, suicide and accidental overdoses are leading causes of maternal death.
Remember, postpartum depression is not your fault – it is a genuine psychological disorder.
If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your newborn, act now. Put the baby in a safe place, like their crib or playpen. Call someone to come over and stay with you if necessary. Then, call your mental health professional or one of these free emergency hotlines:
Finding Freedom, Love and Compassion
If you are having trouble coping with a co-occurring disorder such as depression and substance abuse, addressing both issues simultaneously will put you on the path to lifelong freedom. At Beach House, we have been offering the gold standard of care to adult women and men since 2016. To learn more about our culture of clinical excellence, our resort-like environment or our client-directed approach to recovery, reach out to us today.