“When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth. Instead, I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life.” -Gwyneth Paltrow
When you thought about having a baby, you always thought happy thoughts, right? You thought about baby giggles, newborn snuggles, bonding over breastfeeding, falling in love with your partner all over again, and filling a baby book with hundreds of invaluable, captured moments. Chances are that no one told you that one of the happiest moments of your life could also lead you down one of the saddest paths. Most likely, no one prepared you for the feelings of despair, failure, and second guessing your every move. Postpartum Depression rears its' ugly head at the most vulnerable times. It knows no boundaries- race, age, economic status, religion, or family make-up. Postpartum Depression is real.
What is PPD?
Postpartum depression looks different in everyone affected. During your pregnancy, your body has a slow build up (with fluctuations here and there) of hormones needed for gestational development, health of mom, and preparing for childbirth. When you have your baby, there is a sudden drop in hormones. You can picture this as a hormonal cliff. Combining this hormonal drop with physical and emotional exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and navigating a brand new part of life known as parenthood.... can you see where I'm going with this?
General symptoms include (but are not limited to) feelings of loneliness, guilt, fear, worry, and anxiety. Mothers often report feeling sadness, helplessness, anger, aggressiveness, or irritability. Oftentimes, it presents as excessive crying and extreme fatigue which can lead to difficulties bonding with your new baby. Moms often feel as if they lack motivation, aren't successful at parenting, and don't get enjoyment out of otherwise enjoyable activities with their friends and family. A lack of concentration and loss of appetite can also be side effects of PPD.
Postpartum depression emerges a few weeks following childbirth and can last up to six months or longer if untreated. In rare cases, some mothers have reported depressive feelings in the weeks leading up to their birth. Symptoms generally intensify in the beginning of onset and eased within the following months. These feelings of despair are not forever; they will go away.
It is important to emphasize that there is no defining attribute that will guarantee the development of postpartum depression nor will one defining factor ward off postpartum depression. There is no one single identified cause or prevention. PPD doesn't develop because of something a mother did or didn't do during her pregnancy or labor.
History of mental health is a good predictor or "indicator" of your risk. Mother's who have a history of mental health illness, particularly depression, are at a higher risk of developing PPD. Family history of mental health illnesses are factors that could influence the risk of PPD. Other outside, "life factors" could increase your risk of PPD such as emotional, financial, health, or relationship stress within the last year. Mothers under the age of 20 are at higher risk as well as unplanned pregnancies and mothers who have little or no support systems.
What to do?
Call you healthcare provider immediately to schedule a visit. Your healthcare provider has numerous resources and the ability to refer you to Mental Health Counselors who specialize in postpartum depression and helping families adjust to life after baby.
If you have suicidal thoughts or ideation, call 911 immediately. There are national hotlines available to support you in this sensitive time.
PPD Moms, 1.800.PPD.MOMS (1.800.773.6667)
Postpartum Support International, 1.800. 944.4773
Northshore University Healthsystem, 1.866.364.6667
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Effects and Treatment of Depression During Pregnancy