From the moment a woman finds out that she is pregnant she enters the first stages of motherhood. Motherhood is an array of emotions: love, happiness, frustration, joy, pride, fear, protection, and the least talked about, depression.
Our society is driven on being perfect ALL the time. To be the perfect mother, to be the perfect wife, to achieve all goals in the work environment, to be involved in the PTO at the school, to make treats for their teams in their extracurricular activities, to have a clean house, clean clothes and to be a good cook. It can be EXHAUSTING and we all feel down at some time, despite what our social media profiles show.
The stage in motherhood that is at highest risk for depression is in the very first year of an infant’s life. As mothers we have a very easy time blaming ourselves for even the slightest fault’s that is perceived as wrong. As a Neonatal nurse, I remember MANY times reassuring a mother that is was not her fault that her premature infant was born months early, that her breastmilk supply was enough for her infant and that every ounce counts, or that her infant did not get sick because she was coughing the day before. As a healthcare provider, it has always been my responsibility to listen to these cues and intervene when needed.
In the early stages of infancy, it is normal for a mother to feel exhausted; you never get to sleep for longer than a two hours’ span, suddenly you realize it’s ok to sleep in a little bit of spit-up, you can’t remember when you last washed your hair (or even what day it is) and clean clothes – I mean if it does not have vomit or poop on it, it’s clean then right?
Contributor: Traci Brown Craig – Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Kids Clinic of Paris, 345 Stone Avenue in Paris
The important thing during this time it how a mother handles this. Feeling a little down and bad about yourself is ok, but can you rebound back and realize that your small human is clean, fed and recently pooped? (Because we all know as mother’s pooping is something we hone in on!)
Now let’s have the hard discussion of when these feelings are bad. If you, or a mother you know, starts exhibiting intense irritability with mood swings, loss of appetite, anger, decreased interest in the infant or interactions with others, insomnia, panic attacks or cannot let the ‘little things’ go (ie: I didn’t get all the clothes washed) seek medical help. These are some of the signs of postpartum depression.
If you see these signs in someone else, please talk to them- do not be afraid. I have always said that open communication the best way to find sound resolutions. Early intervention is key to preventing longer treatment plan.
Approximately 50% of mother’s experience postpartum depression in the first year of an infant’s life. (And that number is the number that is reported). It’s ok to not be perfect-we all have flaws! What is NOT ok is to continue to suffer, or let others suffer, in silence. Seek help, talk to fellow mothers, talk to your infant’s health care provider, a counselor or your healthcare provider. Please just talk, because you are likely to find out that you are not alone.
Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, and they can range from mild to severe.
Baby blues symptoms
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
Postpartum depression symptoms
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Postpartum depression in new fathers
New fathers can experience postpartum depression, too. They may feel sad or fatigued, be overwhelmed, experience anxiety, or have changes in their usual eating and sleeping patterns ― the same symptoms mothers with postpartum depression experience.
Fathers who are young, have a history of depression, experience relationship problems or are struggling financially are most at risk of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression in fathers ― sometimes called paternal postpartum depression ― can have the same negative effect on partner relationships and child development as postpartum depression in mothers can.
If you’re a new father and are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety during your partner’s pregnancy or in the first year after your child’s birth, talk to your health care professional. Similar treatments and supports provided to mothers with postpartum depression can be beneficial in treating postpartum depression in fathers.
If you have suicidal thoughts
If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from your partner or loved ones in taking care of your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.
Also consider these options if you’re having suicidal thoughts:
- Seek help from your primary care provider or other health care professional.
- Call a mental health professional.
- Call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
Helping a friend or loved one
People with depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they’re depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait and hope for improvement.