10 Silent Signs You Could Have Postpartum Depression
More than just "baby blues," postpartum depression is a serious condition that affects one in nine women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some ways to tell if you are suffering from postpartum depression symptoms, and what you can do to get the help you need.
When a new mom experiences more than the typical concern about her child's health, it might be worth considering that something other than new motherhood, such as postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety is to blame. Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, a psychologist who treats patients virtually via telehealth app LiveHealth Online, encourages new mothers to consider anxiety as one of the many postpartum depression symptoms. "You are now suddenly responsible for every single aspect of this brand new human's safety and well-being, how could you not feel worried and overwhelmed?" she asks. "That's why it can be important to rely on those around you to help you recognize any signs or symptoms of depression." Check out the 16 things every parent wants you to know.
You are irritable
The early days of motherhood are filled with very little sleep, lots of new responsibilities, and oftentimes a lack of real support from those around you. All of this can result in feelings of irritability or anger. You know yourself best, however, so if you find yourself lashing out unexpectedly over the smallest things, it might be tied to postpartum depression. "Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness; sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth," Dr. Henderson says. "Some factors that may place women at a higher risk for postpartum depression include low social support, history of depression or anxiety, and pregnancy or birth complications." (Here are natural ways to help overcome depression.)
You have trouble making decisions
Parenthood comes with a lot of decisions, many of them made for your new baby. This new responsibility can feel crushing for a woman battling PPD, and should be one of the signs that she is dealing with something more intense than the typical "baby blues." If a woman has trouble concentrating or the smallest of decisions seem to overwhelm her, postpartum depression may be to blame. "What can be tricky is distinguishing the 'normal' feelings that come from such an abrupt and extreme change in your life from more concerning experiences," Dr. Henderson explains. "Sometimes the people around you have a much better perspective on the 'big picture' than you do when you are in the middle of it. It can be difficult for friends and family to talk about what they are observing with their loved ones, and it is easier to stay quiet and hope it gets better on its own. But both mother and baby benefit when they get help for postpartum depression." Here are more facts about depression psychologists wish people knew.
Your appetite changes
If a new mother finds herself eating excessively, or not eating much at all, both can be postpartum depression symptoms. A breastfeeding mother will need an extra 300-500 calories per day to maintain her milk supply, so eating a bit more than normal is okay, but if she has lost her appetite and cannot consume the needed amount this can be concerning. Dr. Henderson recommends speaking to your family before your baby is born, to give them permission to bring any concerns they witness to your attention. "Letting your family and friends know that you are open to hearing their feedback may help them feel more comfortable in offering you help," she says. "You may even have these conversations prior to giving birth, when your head is a bit more clear. This is especially important if you have a history of depression or anxiety prior to pregnancy. Think of it as just another step in the baby prep process."
You can't sleep or sleep too much
Sleep patterns with a newborn are going to be rearranged, to put it mildly. However, a new mother that finds herself unable to unwind and sleep when she does get the chance to do so, can be a sign that something is amiss. For some women, medication to treat symptoms of postpartum depression can be necessary to get hormones back on track. "Medications can be particularly helpful with postpartum depression because there is such a strong hormonal component to the development of these symptoms," Dr. Henderson explains. Here are postpartum depression myths that are dangerous to believe.
You feel disconnected from your baby
There is a misconception that with a new baby also comes an instant connection and overwhelming love for your child. This is true sometimes, but for some new mothers, it can take time to develop. There is a difference, however, in allowing yourself the time to develop love and relationship with your child, and not feeling connected to your baby at all. "Often, mothers feel terribly guilty about the depressive symptoms they experience, and worry about the impact they may be having on those around them, particularly their babies. The best thing you can do for the health and happiness of your baby is to dedicate the time, energy, and resources to getting yourself some help. Talking to your doctor is a great first step to take in getting help, and it is important to do so if you find your symptoms aren't fading after two weeks, are worsening, or make it difficult to care for your baby or complete other daily tasks."
You doubt that you can be a good mom
Every mother has doubts that she is up for the task of motherhood. It can feel overwhelming, and even daunting. If those feelings continue, this can be a sign that a mother is experiencing something more than just baby blues. "A great resource is groups for new parents, which can offer support, education, and social connection," Dr. Henderson says. "Check with your obstetrician, hospital, universities, libraries, churches, and other religious or community organizations for group offerings. There are groups that cater to breastfeeding, single parents, fertility struggles, first-time mothers, adoptive parents, stay-at-home parents, working parents, those struggling with postpartum depression, and the list goes on. Sometimes there is no better source of support than someone who is going through the exact same thing as you are." Here are 16 brutal truths every new mom must know and memorize.
You worry about harming your baby
New mothers want nothing more than to protect their new child at all costs, so when intrusive thoughts of harming their child invade their thinking, it can be terrifying. Although it can be embarrassing and shameful to admit having these thoughts, Dr. Henderson encourages women to reach out, saying, "If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, it is so important to reach out to a health professional right away. These thoughts can be horribly shameful and terrifying to share, but a health professional will never judge you for them; we know that these thoughts are just a symptom of a disorder and have heard them before!"
You cry frequently
Giving birth and meeting your child can be one of the most emotional experiences in a woman's lifetime. It is understandable that emotions will run high in the weeks after a baby is born, as a result of life change, sleep deprivation, and hormonal fluctuations. If you find yourself crying frequently for longer than the first two weeks after birth, this may be a symptom of postpartum depression. Dr. Henderson offers hope for new mothers struggling with tearfulness associated with PPD, saying, "The great news is that there are treatment options out there for new mothers struggling with postpartum depression. Your doctor may talk with you about the pros and cons of taking medication, such as an antidepressant." Here are 15 ways a good cry affects your body and mind.
How to find help
The first step to getting help is to reach out. You or a family member can either contact your own doctor, or find a mental health professional for treatment. There are more options than ever to access help— some even within the comfort of your own home! "The idea of finding a therapist and getting to appointments can be overwhelming in itself, and online therapy through livehealthonline.com can be a wonderful way to break down many of the barriers that can get in the way of accessing therapy," Dr. Henderson says. "By seeing a therapist online, you can access an appointment quickly (sometimes within 24 hours) and do not have to worry about leaving the house or even getting childcare for your baby. I have seen several new mothers in my online therapy practice, and they are able to take care of their baby from the comfort of their own home, while investing in their own mental health with me."