New moms face so many challenges. You’re likely dealing with less sleep and more stress, while you learn everything from breastfeeding to the specifics of effective diaper-changing. All of these changes don’t begin to cover the new responsibilities and expectations that come with being a mom. And perhaps more importantly, these challenges don’t begin to cover the emotional toll that pregnancy can have on mothers.
What is postpartum depression?
Whether this is your first child or your fifth, mothers deal with physical and emotional pressure. The “perfect mother” simply doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t stop many new mothers from feeling as though they’ve fallen short of this impractical stereotype. If you’re experiencing recurring emotional pain that began after childbirth and continued into the weeks that followed, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression – a form of depression experienced by mothers after childbirth – is typically caused by a variety of factors, including normal hormonal shifts occurring in a mother’s body post birth, fatigue from lack of sleep and the mental adjustment that must take place as motherhood becomes the norm. Postpartum depression is perhaps more common that you might imagine: 50-75% of mothers experience some form of postpartum depression after giving birth.
Signs of postpartum depression
Postpartum depression can affect mothers of all demographics, even if you didn’t experience it during the birth of previous children. You can experience the onset of postpartum depression during any point over the first year after giving birth, though most commonly you’ll start to see postpartum depression set in within the first 3 weeks after childbirth.
Some potential signs include:
You feel exhausted, but you can’t fall asleep;
Your actions feel out of control;
You have trouble making simple decisions;
You feel like you need to escape the situation;
You experience uncontrollable mood swings;
You can’t figure out why you feel upset or anxious;
You feel like you have to keep your thoughts and feelings a secret because you’re worried people will see you as a bad mother;
You’ve lost interest in activities you once enjoyed.
If you’ve experienced one of more of these symptoms, you might be experiencing the effects of postpartum depression. Don’t feel bad about reaching out and seeking the help you know you need.
Why am I experiencing this?
There are several causes of postpartum depression. Typically, both physical and emotional factors play a role in symptom length and severity.
While causes of postpartum depression vary from one woman to another, they typically include:
Drops or natural fluctuations in hormones that follow childbirth;
Family members with depression;
Existing stress or anxiety issues;
Existing marriage, financial or substance use issues.
The good news, however, is that postpartum depression is treatable and begins to fade over time as hormonal levels return to normal and conversations with a counselor improve your coping skills.
Postpartum depression risk factors
Postpartum depression doesn’t play favorites; it can affect any new mom, even if they do not have a history of depression. However, certain moms could be susceptible to increased postpartum depression risk, given a number of factors.
These pre-existing risk factors include:
Existing bipolar disorder;
Postpartum depression experienced after a previous pregnancy;
Family history of postpartum depression;
Family history of depression, anxiety or other mood disorders;
Infants with health problems;
Multiple births, like twins or triplets;
Existing marital or relationship issues with your partner.
However, knowing these risk factors can help you take preventative measures during your pregnancy to avoid being blindsided by any signs of postpartum depression. The more aware of the possibility you are, the more equipped you’ll be to handle it.
What can I do about my postpartum depression?
Even if you don’t have a history of postpartum depression or mood disorders, developing postpartum depression after you give birth is a possibility. And even if your doctor monitored symptoms closely before, during and after pregnancy, and you participated in postpartum checkups, you can still develop postpartum depression.
If you’re looking to properly address postpartum depression, licensed healthcare professionals are a great option. Therapists can point you in the direction of valuable postpartum depression resources, and provide expertise in managing your symptoms.