Having a baby is a happy and exciting time for most new mothers. It is also a period of intense adjustment to the many changes that follow the birth of a child. These adjustments can make you feel sadness, fear, anger, or anxiety. Most new mothers have these feelings in a mild form called postpartum blues. Postpartum blues almost always go away in a few days.
About ten percent of new mothers have greater feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety. This is called postpartum depression. Postpartum depression lasts longer than postpartum blues and often does not go away on its own. It can require counseling and treatment.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
If you feel depressed after the birth of your baby, be on the lookout for the following signs. They may be a signal that you are developing postpartum depression and should get help.
• Your postpartum blues, or baby blues, don’t go away after two weeks.
• Strong feelings of depression and anger come one to two months after your baby is born.
Postpartum depression is normal. It does not mean that you are a failure as a woman or as a mother or that you have a mental illness.
• Feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt, or helplessness seem to increase each week and seem to keep you from functioning normally.
• Inability to care for yourself or your baby.
• Trouble doing tasks at home or at work.
• Change in appetite.
• Things that used to bring you pleasure no longer do.
• Concern and worry about your baby are too intense, or interest in your baby is lacking.
• Anxiety or panic attacks.
• Fear of being left alone in the house with your baby.
• Concern that you might harm your baby.
• Thoughts of harming yourself.
The doctors at Fair Ridge Ob/Gyn are trained to help you overcome your feelings of postpartum depression. They are only a phone call away.
If you, or someone you know, show any of these signs after childbirth, it is time to call your doctor for help. Your doctor can help you get the support, counseling, or medication you need to overcome your feelings of postpartum depression.
Reasons For Postpartum Depression
Because no two women are alike, it is difficult to pinpoint specific reasons for postpartum depression. Like most forms of depression, postpartum depression is the result of many body, mind, and lifestyle factors. This may be why some women have postpartum depression and others don’t. Or why a woman may have postpartum depression with one pregnancy and not another.
Postpartum depression can occur after any birth, not just the first. It does not seem related to the mother’s age or the number of children she has.
Doctors believe that the many changes your body goes through after giving birth play a role in postpartum depression. Dropping levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone may trigger depression in the same way that much smaller changes in these hormone levels can trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods. Some women are more bothered by these changes than others.
Emotional factors can also play a role in postpartum depression. You may feel physically and mentally overwhelmed by your new responsibilities and may feel anxiety about the physical changes your body is going through.
What You Can Do
If you are feeling depressed after the birth of your baby, there are things you can do to take care of yourself and your baby:
• Get plenty of rest. Don’t try to do it all. Try to nap when the baby naps.
• Ask for help from family and friends, especially if you have other children. Have your partner help with feedings at night.
• Take special care of yourself. Shower and dress each day, and get out of the house. Get a babysitter or take the baby with you. Go for a walk, meet with a friend, and talk with other new mothers.
• Spend time with your partner. Tell him how you feel. Often just talking things out with someone you trust can provide relief.
A supportive partner is key to overcoming the negative emotions that can sometimes accompany the birth of a child. Talk to your partner if you think you have postpartum depression.
When To Call Your Doctor
If your feelings of depression do not go away in a few weeks, or become overwhelming, call your doctor, or have your partner or a friend call your doctor. Your doctor can refer you to experts in treating postpartum depression. These experts will give you emotional support, help you sort through your feelings, and help you make positive changes in your life.
There are also hotlines and support groups for women with postpartum depression. Your doctor can provide you with the names, number, and web sites for these groups.