There is no single cause or reason for postpartum depression. It is a condition that results from a combination of biological, hormonal, environmental and psychological factors.
It is most often influenced by a number of risk factors some of which may be: dramatic hormonal changes, unexpected birth experience, chronic sleep deprivation, your family’s medical history, your previous experience with depression, recent losses, lack of social support, environmental stressors, high-needs infant, perceived loss of control, unsupportive partner or history of abuse.
It is not fully understood why women experience PPD and it can strike women with no risk factors at all. For each woman the combination of factors that because it is unique. Thankfully it is completely treatable.
Postpartum depression is a real medical condition that affects 20% of new mothers. There is no definitive reason why this happens. It’s not because you did something wrong or that you are not a good mother. It is a mood disorder characterized by a cluster of symptoms that last at least two weeks.
These symptoms may include weepiness, irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness, loss of appetite, excessive guilt, difficulty concentrating, obsessive thoughts, panic, feelings of sadness, hopelessness, thoughts about death and general fatigue. Each of these symptoms responds well to treatment.
How do I know if I have postpartum depression or if what I’m feeling is normal?
Trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. That doesn’t mean anything terrible is happening. It may mean you are overwhelmed or overloaded and need some downtime so you can get things back on track.
It is possible for you to be experiencing what is called Postpartum Stress Syndrome, which is not clinical depression, but rather an adjustment disorder that is self-limited and responds well to support interventions.
The baby blues, which is marked by feelings of sadness, fatigue, and anxiety occurs shortly after birth and lasts for a few days to a couple of weeks. Postpartum Stress Syndrome and Postpartum Depression can emerge at any time during the first postpartum year.
If you notice that you are feeling worse as time goes on, it is important for you to let someone know how you are feeling. Do not let feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment get in the way of you doing what you need to do to feel better.
What if I still don’t feel better?
Sometimes self-help measures are not enough. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, you should consider seeking professional support. Look for a therapist that specializes in the treatment of women and depression.
Often the combination of therapy and antidepressant medication is the most efficient, effective treatment of PPD. Medication can be used as a tool that can help reduce some of the symptoms such as depression and anxiety so you can develop additional tools to better cope with the possibility of not needing medication anymore.
In other words, medication can help you become stabilized while you work with a therapist to address issues like sleep, nutrition, social support, supplementation, exercise, and self-support. Thankfully there are medications that do not interfere with breastfeeding. A medical professional can help prescribe what works best for you.
Sometimes something as vital as sleep (which many new moms lack greatly) can cause symptoms which then impact sleep and a circular pattern may develop that is difficult to get out of. Strategizing either with your spouse or the help of a therapist as to how you can get the most sleep possible is a great place to start. Everything seems better when you are well-rested!
What can my partner do to help?
Your partner can help by encouraging you to rest as much as possible and help you set limits to achieve this. He can sit with you when you are feeling bad and remind you that you will not always be this way. He can give you permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself during this vulnerable time while he takes care of himself so he can remain strong and supportive.
He can listen to you as you process your feelings and discuss your symptoms. He can encourage you to get professional help if it seems you are not getting better on your own.
Is there anything else I can do to help myself feel better?
Yes! You can stop blaming yourself and feeling guilty. Transitioning into motherhood or adding a new baby to the family is very difficult on its own but when you are experiencing postpartum depression that transition becomes so much more difficult.
It’s important to accept that you have an illness that is treatable and take the steps necessary for recovery. Make yourself a priority and put yourself at the top of your list of things to take care of. Don’t be afraid of asking for help and accept it if it is offered.
Try to make time for yourself and do your best not to overload yourself. Give yourself permission to rest, to exercise, to surround yourself with things that feel good to you. It’s ok to avoid people and things that make you feel bad. Stay close to those who love you unconditionally and thank them for their continued support.
Accept your feelings, good and bad. Take one day at a time and allow yourself the freedom to make mistakes and remind yourself that you will not always feel this way. Understand that the healing process is a slow one and may not move as quickly as you would like. Believe you will feel better again.
If you feel professional counseling may be the best option for you to treat your postpartum depression I would love to work with you and help you develop tools to put in your tool belt to move past this and combat depression and anxiety in the future. You are not alone in these feelings or symptoms and help is available to actively work on feeling better and eventually your best.
Many other women have this experience and have found relief so they can live their best life. The transition into motherhood is one of the most monumental transitions of a woman’s life. It affects everything from your identity, your relationship with your partner and your relationship with family and friends.
Rediscovering who you are as a mother takes time and work. Learning the balance between baby, your relationship with your partner and possibly work takes a great deal of trial and error. Working towards redefining who you are without getting lost in all these roles while attending to them can be a daunting task.
If you feel you need help and direction around these issues in addition to a struggle with postpartum depression, I would consider it an honor to work with you towards learning these boundaries and discovering the new you. I have been married for 28 years and have three children and two grandchildren.
I understand the difficulties of trying to find balance in your sometimes-hectic life as a wife and mother while not losing yourself to these important roles. It’s important to establish these boundaries to protect your mental well-being as well as the health of your marriage.
The best gift you can give your new baby is a firm foundation of two parents that love each other and are continually working towards a healthy relationship. Feel free to contact me today so we can set up a time to meet to see if I might be the right fit to help you journey through this time of your life.