I really started to notice there was a problem when I felt rage welling up inside me when my newborn would not stop crying. I didn’t feel that joy everyone talks about when you become a new mom – that new mom glow. I was mad and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just enjoy this special time with my new baby girl!
I thought, “It is the baby blues – this is normal.” But then days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months of not feeling like myself. It just wasn’t going away or getting better. Upon asking my sisters if this was normal, they encouraged me to see my doctor. That is where I found out that I was experiencing Postpartum Depression (PPD).
We all need to understand that having a baby can be overwhelmingly difficult. The reality of having a baby, and the physical, emotional, and relationship changes that it brings, impact women in enormous ways. With all of these changes, many women never expect to experience Postpartum Depression. Yet one in five women will develop PPD sometime in their life.
Everyone’s body and situation are different. Some women need to be put on medication and/or need to see a counselor. Always seek medical attention if you feel as if your symptoms are severe – you do not want to harm yourself or your baby. Remember you are loved. You are not a failure.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
- Changes in Hormone Levels
In the hours after childbirth, levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply. These changes may trigger depression.
- A History of Depression
Women who have had depression at any time, including before, during, or after pregnancy have an increased risk of developing PPD.
- Emotional Factors
Feelings of doubt about pregnancy are common. If the pregnancy is not planned or is not wanted, this can affect the way a woman feels about her pregnancy and her unborn baby. Even when a pregnancy is planned, it can take a long time to adjust to the idea of having a new baby. These emotions can affect a woman’s self-esteem and how she deals with stress.
Labor and delivery is exhausting. It can take weeks for a woman to regain her normal strength and energy. For women who have had their babies by cesarean birth, it may take even longer. Adjusting to the demands of a newborn, including sleepless nights, will cause extreme exhaustion.
- Lifestyle and Social Factors
Lack of support from others and stressful life events can greatly increase the risk of postpartum depression. A recent death of a loved one, a family illness, or moving to a new city can all play a role. Likewise, having low socioeconomic status, or being single, divorced, or unemployed, can increase the risk factor.
Tips for Surviving Postpartum Depression
- Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about what to expect physically and psychologically during pregnancy, childbirth, and after having baby. This may help you develop realistic expectations for yourself and your baby. And don’t be fooled into thinking it could never happen to me. Keep an open mind so that if you notice signs of PPD, you can get yourself help.
- Do not suffer in silence. One in five women will experience postpartum depression. Tell someone what you are going through. Don’t hesitate to ask for help or a listening ear from supportive friends and family, but limit visitors so they don’t overwhelm you. Your symptoms may worsen and drag you down into the pit of depression if you do not ask for help.
- Know that this is not your fault. You did not create this. Postpartum Depression is a real illness that is caused by a combination of the factors shared previously.
- Get as much sleep as you can. Your brain needs to be recharged so it’s important to get a good amount of sleep. Try to nap when the baby does (this is really true). If you can’t sleep, then use this time to relax by trying a breathing technique, prayer, journaling, or reading a good book – the house work can wait. Your recovery is more important. Unfortunately caffeine wreaks havoc on your endocrine system, so try to slow down or avoid how much coffee or soda you are drinking. Your body will thank you.
- Eat healthy. It is essential to eat healthy not only during pregnancy but after. Nutritious meals are less about dieting to lose the baby weight and more about feeling good, having more energy.
- Get physical activity. Exercise can help to alleviate anxiety and depression by raising the serotonin levels in your brain.
- Remember, you are a good mom. The fact that you are seeking help and resources makes you a good mom. You are trying to improve the quality of your life and your family’s situation. This is proof in itself and you shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed.
- You will recover. It has been many women’s experience that they recovered after receiving proper treatment. But such recovery requires proper care and support from those around you. Please seek help from a qualified professional.
Like I said before, you are not a failure! Not only have you experienced a drastic change in your body, your life is forever different with the new addition to your family. Walking through these hormonal/emotional changes is all about recovery.
Looking back, I would have done things differently; gone to new mom groups for support and experience, and not feeling bad about saying no – and saying it more often. I would have turned off my phone and computer more often, and I would have taken medication earlier. I do get sad when I look back and think that my daughter’s first 4 months were so scary and there was such a lack of connection. To all the mamas out there, please know that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. You do not have to walk this journey alone.
– Birthline Staff