The birth of a baby can trigger a mix of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something called postpartum depression (PPD). Pregnancy, labor, and birth are perhaps the most significant life experiences that a woman and her partner will encounter. It is a time of extreme physical and emotional transition with intense hormonal, psychological, and biological changes.
Many new moms experience what is called postpartum “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells and sadness, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and feeling overwhelmed and worried. Baby blues usually begin within the first 2-3 days after delivery, and may last for a couple of weeks and then go away.
However, some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression (PPD). Symptoms can vary and can range from mile to severe, and can eventually interfere with the ability to handle daily tasks or care for the baby. Some signs and symptoms of PPD may include: severe mood swings, overwhelming fatigue, hopelessness, excessive crying, depressed mood, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, intense irritability or anger, unable to think clearly or make decisions, severe anxiety and panic attacks, loss of appetite or eating much more than usual, withdrawal from family & friends, feelings of worthlessness/shame/guilt, thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, obsessive thoughts, difficulty bonding with the baby, and reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. Some women may feel that they do not have PPD because they do not feel “depressed.” Some women actually feel as if they are “going crazy” because their symptoms do not match what they read or hear about, and they are afraid to reveal the things that are really going on inside their heads.
Women with PPD can suffer with their symptoms for quite some time before seeking help. If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. You may be embarrassed or afraid to share what you are experiencing, or apprehensive about the stigma related to depression and mental health issues. However, if untreated, PPD may last for months or even longer, so early detection and treatment are key to a full recovery. If you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or PPD, please tell someone. Call your healthcare provider and schedule an appointment ASAP. The earlier it’s detected, the earlier treatment can begin. PPD is not your fault. It is a medical condition that CAN be treated. Help is out there.
For more information on PPD and resources, visit: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression and http://postpartum.net/ .
Juli Simpson, RN, BSN, LSN, is the Maternal and Child Health Program director at the Meigs County Health Department.