Babies are game changers. Even if you’re well prepared and even if she’s your second (or third, or fourth…) child, the arrival of a new baby can shake things up! Mothers almost always experience some level of stress, but sometimes what you feel with a new baby is more than “just” stress or hormones. Postpartum depression (PPD) is more common than many people believe, and mothers who suffer from it sadly still face stigma.
What is the difference between PPD and the “Baby Blues”?
Some women may experience the baby blues that includes periods of weeping or moodiness, perhaps due to sleep deprivation and/or hormonal imbalance. But they are still be able to go about their daily life of caring for a new baby. And while this type of sadness or moodiness will come and go, these funks generally won’t last for more than two weeks at a time.
PPD is more persistent and serious. Women typically experience postpartum depression in the first few weeks to up to a year after giving birth. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include, but are not limited to, feelings of futility, sadness, loss of identity, isolation or anxiety, a lack of concern for the baby, irrational worrying, obsessive thinking, loss of appetite and trouble sleeping. Ultimately these symptoms severely affect your daily life.
What causes postpartum depression?
This question is a little bit more difficult to answer. Experts cannot agree to the exact cause of postpartum depression; whether it is caused by hormonal issues, social pressures, adjustment problems, or all of the above. Some medical conditions have been linked to PPD, such as hypothyroidism.
We know that women who have experienced any type of depression in the past are more likely to also experience PPD (although, this is hardly a guarantee). Other risks factors include:
- Teen mothers
- Mothers who have previously lost a pregnancy or child
- Mothers of multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Mothers who had difficulty getting pregnant
- Mothers of babies with disabilities
- Mothers of babies who required hospitalization
- Mothers that have experienced complications during pregnancy and/or birth
What steps can you take if you are suffering from PPD?
We think the most important thing to remember is a mother should never feel guilty about taking care of herself, even during the first few weeks and months with a new baby. If you need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it – even if it means time away from your child. To take care of others, you have to take care of yourself first! If you’re experiencing any symptoms of PPD or if you just feel like something’s wrong, you can and should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. You can also seek out local support organizations (Link to support groups page) or groups that can put you in touch with mothers facing similar challenges. It can help to know you are not alone during this stressful time.