Remember when you thought morning sickness only happened in the morning? And then you got pregnant and found out that it is actually more like all-the-time-sickness? Well, postpartum depression is kind of like that.
Postpartum depression can be more or different than depression-only. It can strike in many different ways, and can feel like post-partum rage, post-partum loathing, post-partum hatred of your partner, post-partum numbness, post-partum anxiety and the list goes on.
Some of the symptoms are what you’d expect, others are not. We’re going to talk about postpartum depression at the “get real” level. And we’re going to provide resources that will help.
Here are the most important things to remember (repeat these three-times each and then repeat them again):
- I am not alone.
- I am not a failure.
- I’m an amazing woman, performing an amazing feat.
- I am empowered to seek the support I need.
- I am seeking the support I need so my baby and I will flourish.
As we mentioned above, the symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) aren’t always just about profound sadness or nonstop crying. They are often sneakier than that, which can prevent women from seeking the help they need because they’re too ashamed to admit how they feel to anyone else – lest they be committed to an asylum or reported to CPS.
To start, take the “Could You Have Postpartum Depression?” Quiz at babycenter.com. However, keep in mind that while “sadness” is always the focus of most PPD posts, you can fit any other overwhelmingly negative emotion-words as a replacement for “sadness”: anger, rage, anxiety, fear, insomnia, panic attacks, for example.
Common & More Common Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
The most published symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Mood swings
- Uncontrollable crying
- Insomnia (who would have guessed you could have so much trouble sleeping when you’re exhausted beyond belief!)
- Trouble eating
- Difficulty focusing (although, lack of sleep can make this a perpetual state of early motherhood…)
Additional symptoms or signs that it’s time to get some compassionate, professional support include:
- Inability to bond with your baby
- Uncontrollable anger or rage
- A feeling that you “hate” or “resent” your baby
- A feeling that you “hate” or “resent” yourself (or your partner)
- Reduced ability to find pleasure in anything – even favorite activities
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Obsessive and/or compulsive behaviors
- Recurrent thoughts of death, suicide or running away
- Recurrent thoughts of harming or killing your baby
- Attempting to harm your baby or having involuntary actions that can harm your baby (throwing your baby down on the bed, shaking the baby, or screaming at the baby in frustration)
- Inability to make any decisions
- Obsessing over the baby and the baby’s wellbeing
There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for the birth of a baby, lack of sleep, the grieving of your former self, life, relationship, or the 24/7 demands of such a small, helpless being. It’s amazing that women make it through that first year with any shred of sanity – and yet, we do.
Mothers, however, are resilient; they continue moving forward day after day – moment after moment – breath after breath – whatever it takes. But, the best way to do that is with the support of professionals and other mothers who understand exactly where you’re at.
Some Women Are More at Risk for Postpartum Depression Than Others
While these factors can put you at higher risk for PPD, any woman who has had a baby is at risk!
- Being single
- Having a weak postpartum support system
- Financial stress
- Life stress (any major life changes or losses/deaths in the past year)
- Breastfeeding struggles
- History of depression or bipolar disorder
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Having a baby with a medical condition or special needs
Treatment & Resources for Postpartum Depression
While postpartum depression is a hot topic of research, the most obvious causes (besides the fact that your entire life just turned on its head and continues to spin in different directions….) are:
- Significant changes in family/community structures over the past several decades (from village and extended family life to individual, autonomous homes)
- Lack of sleep (it’s not considered a form of torture for nothing, it literally reduces your ability to function rationally).
The good news is that treatment is 100% available to you, and you will not be judged, scolded or condemned for your honesty or request for help. The right care provider will provide unconditional support and assistance, often through the use of therapy, antidepressants (if necessary) and/or community-building.
Talk to your partner, mother, friend, etc. Let your partner – or a trusted loved-one – know in no uncertain terms that you need support, and enlist his or her help. If you are feeling apathetic or pushed to the edge, it can be difficult to take the time or energy to make calls, get online etc. You may need someone else to help you.
Contact a support group. There are postpartum support hotlines and websites available to speak with you and guide you according to your needs, location, symptoms, etc. Visit postpartum.net to read more about the topic or to chat with an expert. You can also call their hotline at 1-800-944-4773. Keep in mind that these hotlines are primarily hosted by volunteers so, while you may need to leave a message, you WILL get a call back.
Tell your OB. Contact your OB and let her know what’s going on. You are not alone, and PPD is very common (even if you don’t hear about it much in the mainstream). Your OB can provide help, support, assistance, referrals and tools to help you move through PPD and back onto a path that feels more secure and familiar to you.
Consult with a therapist. Working with a therapist who specializes in family or postpartum therapy is such a help. Use the psychologytoday.com site to find a therapist in or near the Bellevue area.
Join a MOMS group. New motherhood is incredibly isolating. The more you can connect with other new moms, or moms of little ones, the more support you will have navigating the day-to-day. Bellevue has an active chapter of MOMS Club and numerous other social groups where babies are welcome and where compassion, understanding and applicable advice are the norm.
DO take care of yourself and your baby by honoring your heart’s request for help. The sooner you get the support you need, the clearer those new motherhood skies will be, we promise!
Contact Overlake OB/GYN to speak with one of our doctors or midwives about your postpartum feelings. We are here for you.