Postpartum depression seems overlooked in discussions about mental health, despite how dangerous it can be for moms and for families. But what is postpartum depression? The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines it as “a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth.” Feelings of extreme sadness, exhaustion, and anxiety can make it difficult for new moms to take care of themselves and their children. PPD is often confused with having a case of the baby blues. While it is normal to feel some ups and downs following birth, if these feelings persist for more than two weeks following delivery, you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Oversleeping or being unable to sleep
- Suffering from physical aches and pains such as headaches or stomach and muscle pains
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Difficulty bonding with baby or doubting ability to care for baby
- Trouble with memory, making decisions, and concentrating
PPD can be challenging because certain symptoms like lack of sleep are considered normal for the parents of newborns. For the complete list of symptoms, click here.
PPD and Stigma
Like with many mental health conditions, there is a stigma surrounding postpartum depression that makes mothers less likely to reach out for help. Some mothers worry that their PPD makes them a failure or that they are doing something wrong. This is not true. Depression and other mood disorders are the result of neurotransmitter imbalances, and can happen to anyone. Giving birth is a miraculous thing that is very hard on the human body. Coming out of the delivery room with some medical difficulties – including PPD – is normal. Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of, nor does it make someone any less of a person or a mother. In fact, PPD is more common than you’d think: affecting 1 in 7 mothers.
If you or someone you know may have postpartum depression, the first step is to be diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Then, you can begin to explore treatment options like talk therapy or medication to find the right fit for you. During this process, it is important to practice self care. Take the time you need to rest and accept help from friends and family members to make it easier to get rest. This may mean having someone else watch the kids or letting someone else do the cooking. You should also build a support system of mothers who understand what you are going through. Mom groups in your community can be a great way to meet new people and can provide you with a chance to talk about your PPD.
For more information and depression resources, check out our Resources page.