There is hope- coping with postpartum depression
There is Hope
It’s 2 AM, you’re awake, trying to comfort your newborn baby while everyone else in the house is sleeping. Your little one is only 1 month old and will not stop crying. You are exhausted running on no sleep and out of ideas to calm her. You’ve tried changing her diaper, feeding her, and rocking her but nothing is working and you begin to feel so frustrated. You start wondering, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get her to stop crying? Am I a bad mother? Suddenly you start crying, feeling so overwhelmed, and at a loss of what to do. This is not the first time you have started crying out of the blue. As you are crying you realize the only sounds you hear are your own sobs, your baby is now sound asleep in your arms. You then begin to ask yourself, why am I feeling so overwhelmed? Shouldn’t being a mom come naturally to me? Why do I cry so easily? Do I have postpartum depression, or is it just the baby blues everyone talks about? How do I know?
Being a new mom, whether it’s your first child or your third, can be an emotional roller coaster. It is common in the first few days to weeks to feel frustrated and overwhelmed as you and your baby adjust to each other and your new routine. The combination of sudden changes in hormones after delivery combined with, lack of sleep and the fatigue that follows delivery create the perfect storm. As such it can be difficult to determine what are normal mood changes and what mood changes are more severe and require treatment.
Baby Blues is defined as mood changes that happen within the first 5 weeks after delivery and lasting no more than 2 weeks. These mood changes can include, mood swings, crying, irritability, sadness, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, reduced concentration, trouble sleeping, and decrease in appetite. Though many, if not all, of these symptoms are also seen in postpartum depression, the key difference is the length of time these symptoms are present and the impact they have on mom.
Postpartum depression is defined as significant mood changes impacting function and/or relationships that develop anytime during the first year after delivery. Postpartum depression may present as baby blues at first, however the symptoms are more severe, remain persistent, and have a significant impact on a mother’s ability to function. Postpartum depression can sometimes present as anxiety or irritability instead of sadness. Statistics show that postpartum depression occurs in 1 out of every 7-9 women. If severe and left untreated it can impair a mother’s ability to care for herself, her baby, and her home. It can also affect her ability to function at work and has also, in severe cases, resulted in separation or divorce.
It is important to mention that postpartum depression can also be present during pregnancy. Since depression and anxiety in pregnancy are common, Postpartum Support International has been lobbying for the term “Postpartum Depression” to be changed to “Perinatal Mood Disorders” to encompass the significant mood changes that occur throughout the pregnancy and postpartum periods.
Postpartum depression is treatable, often times with simple lifestyle changes such as sleeping more, asking for help from family and friends, joining a mom group, and taking time for yourself weekly. However, if all of these coping strategies are already in place and a mom is still struggling with anxiety and/or depression then she may benefit from counseling, medication, or both as treatment options. Contrary to popular belief there are medications available that are safe in pregnancy and while breast feeding.
If you have intense feelings of sadness or anxiety lasting longer than 2 weeks, difficulty functioning at home, work, or in your relationships, difficulty caring for yourself or your baby, or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. You may also ask a family member or friend to call for you if needed. Even if you’re not sure if what you are feeling is “normal” your provider will bring you in for an appointment to assess for postpartum depression and discuss treatment options.
Postpartum depression can be debilitating but there is hope, call for help.
Postpartum Support Network is a local non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Brevard county moms in need with counseling and healthcare providers for treatment. www.postpartumsupportnetwork.org (321)-223-1013
Postpartum Support International provides direct peer support to families, trains professionals, and provides a bridge to connect them.
www.psichapters.com Helpline: 1-800-944-4773
To Write Love On Her Arms also provides scholarships for counseling and medication management. Go to twloha.com/find-help/ and fill out a scholarship application.