Adding a little bundle of joy to your family should be the happiest time of your life. But for some women, it’s simply not. While the majority of women (70 percent, according to ScienceDaily) experience some sort of “baby blues,” soon after giving birth, up to 13 percent of women will experience blues that grow into full clinical postpartum depression.
It’s easy for me to imagine why most new moms suffer from the baby blues. Let’s count the reasons.
1. The physical. You just accomplished one of the most physically challenging achievements of your life—giving birth—which while not only being stressful on your body, doesn’t exactly give you a lot of time to rest.
2. The emotional. You’re dealing with an entirely new experience—and all of the uncertainty that comes with it. Such as, “Eek! This little thing is entirely dependent on me to survive!” or “Will I ever be able to take a long shower again?”
3. The hormonal. Hormones go haywire. In the first several days after giving birth, estrogen levels drop anywhere from 100-fold to 1,000-fold. That’s a lot of fold!
4. The exhaustion. On top of the exhaustion of childbirth, those first few days (and weeks and months) with a newborn aren’t exactly known for being sleep-friendly. My two-minute pee breaks in the night are hardly comparable to the middle-of-the-night diaper changes and breastfeeding sessions that are coming.
I’ve talked to friends of mine who have become moms, and one common experience they’ve all shared is the emotional upheaval they’ve felt immediately after the baby arrives. I’ve heard tales of retreating to the bathtub or bedroom to simply cry it out. For hours.
So how do you know the difference between the normal emotional upheaval and “baby blues” from the more serious clinical postpartum depression? The baby blues typically resolve on their own after a few weeks, whereas postpartum depression is more persistent and longer lasting. And while PPD can strike immediately after birth, it also may not settle in until months down the road, just when you’re thinking you’re in the clear. It’s important for new moms to know the symptoms of depression, such as anger and irritability, lack of interest in the baby, and appetite and sleep disturbances.
It’s also really important to know your risk factors for PPD. I’m already taking preemptive measures to help myself once the baby arrives. Family will be coming to visit in shifts. I’ve chatted with my doctor about my history, so she and I know to watch out for any signs and symptoms. My husband also knows the tell-tale signs of me needing a break and will make sure that I have the right amount of time for myself.
A lot of times new moms feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and may feel as if they are failing if they’re suffering. But do NOT suffer in silence because there are so many postpartum depression treatment options available.
But as I’ve learned with any type of depression, from mild to severe, there is only so much you can do to control it. When you’re truly suffering, no amount of eating right, exercising and sunshine is going to change it, and you need to know when to reach out and get help. Women—and new moms especially—should never feel inadequate for asking for help, whether it’s with doing the laundry or their mental health. —Erin