Postpartum Depression-How Common Is It
Postpartum Depression, or PPD, is defined as depression suffered by a mother following childbirth. PPD may present itself as the “Baby Blues” at first. Baby Blues are strong emotions and mood swings that occur after childbirth, when the endorphins from delivery have left the system. When these symptoms don’t go away, it could be a sign of PPD.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
- Lack of interest or feelings for the baby
- Anger (toward the baby and others)
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Sadness or excessive crying
- Changes in eating habits
- Fatigue with inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual
- Mood swings
- Obsessive thoughts
- Fear that you may harm your baby or fear that something is going to happen to your baby that is out of your control (kidnapping, death)
- Brain fog-having a hard time remembering things or being unable to describe anything, having a loss for words
- Physical aches and pains such as nausea, headache, upset stomach
- Suicidal ideation
You do not have to experience all of these symptoms to be diagnosed with PPD. Generally, you will have three or more symptoms listed above. It’s important to know that any of these symptoms can appear at any moment during pregnancy and up to 12 months postpartum.
Who gets postpartum depression
Approximately 10-15% of women experience PPD. You’re at a higher risk if you have had PPD previously, have a history of depression, have a lot of daily stress, or suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Pregnancy hormones change drastically after giving birth. The changes can produce chemical changes within the brain, which could trigger the illness.
What to do if you think you have postpartum depression
Most women often struggle with getting help when experiencing PPD. There’s a stigma attached to the idea of having any mental illness, and women often sit in the dark and try to work through the issues on their own. It’s important to know that reaching out doesn’t make you vulnerable or appear weak. In fact, it can be quite empowering.
Talk to your partner if he/she is still in the picture. Let him inside your head. Together, you can take the next step which is speaking to your doctor. It’s important to make a list of the symptoms (No matter how bad the thoughts get, report it. Your doctor can’t help if she doesn’t have the full story. You will not be judged) you’re experiencing. Often time when we arrive to the doctor’s office, we are intimidated and miss half of what we wanting to talk about. Having a list handy will make this step easier.
Hopefully, you’re comfortable with your existing doctor who delivered your baby. She may have you come in right away or refer you to someone who specializes in postpartum depression. Contacting your primary care doctor is also a good choice if you’re not sure where to turn.
Is medication the only answer
Your doctor may suggest medication. This may frighten you, thanks to the stigma attached to mental illness, or because you’re nursing your new baby. There are a good number of medications out there today that you can take and still safely nurse your baby. Your doctor must know that you are nursing in order for him to prescribe a safe medication.
Most doctors recommend staying on your medication for a minimum of one year even if you’re feeling better. If you’re feeling better today you shouldn’t jump off the medication. Chances are you’re feeling better because of the medication. Coming off of it too quickly can trigger a relapse.
Take care of yourself mentally and physically. While taking medication is a good route to drive down, sometimes it’s the little things that make you feel better. If you’re clear for exercise, get outside with the baby and go for a walk or maybe take up yoga. The endorphins will boost how you’re feeling and give you energy. Shower every day. Sleep when the baby sleeps. These may seem cliché (and it probably is) but it works.
Talk therapy helps some women work through the symptoms of postpartum depression. Your therapist may offer coping strategies to work through your symptoms.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) is an organization to increase awareness in the public eye. PSI has more than 175 coordinators around the world. They provide a list according to the county and States. PSI can assist you with getting the help you need.
As with any illness, in the case of an emergency, call 911. The Suicide Prevention Hotline is also always on standby should the need arise at 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
Postpartum depression is real. You can’t just snap your fingers and get over it. Being depressed doesn’t make you a bad person. You didn’t do anything to cause this or bring it upon yourself.