Postpartum depression sets in between 4 and 6 weeks after birth and affects 10% to 20% of women.
Postpartum Depression a misunderstood condition that can be cripplingly debilitative, sending new mothers into a deep despair during what should be one of the happiest times of their life.
If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression or are worried about a loved one, look out for the following signs:
1. It’s More than Baby Blues
It’s perfectly normal to feel a little rundown in the first few weeks after giving birth. You’re hormonal, sleep-deprived and stressed – feeling under the weather is to be expected. But if this feeling lasts for months, then you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
Some of the symptoms you may experience include:
- A sense of hopelessness.
- Unwillingness to get out of bed.
- Neglecting personal hygiene.
- Finding little or no enjoyment in the things you used to love.
There is a myth that women with this condition spend all of their time crying and feeling sorry for themselves. This can certainly be a symptom, but in the vast majority of cases it’s not.
Postpartum depression, as with other forms of depression, is something that the sufferer can hide from the rest of the world. It is something that they may internalize, so don’t assume that you (or a loved one) don’t have it because you’re not spending your days in a fit of tears.
2. You’re Worried about your Abilities as a Mother
It’s perfectly normal to have a few doubts prior to giving birth – and those doubts may persist for the first few weeks or months of the baby’s life. But, if you still doubt your abilities as a mother months or even years later then you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
This is especially true for mothers of healthy children, as such doubts are far more common -justifiably so – with mothers of children who have special needs and require more demanding care.
3. You Have Lost Interest in Yourself and Your Needs
When you have a baby, it’s normal to put your own needs aside. It’s also normal to spend less time on your appearance than you usually would. However, if you no longer care about how you look and your personal hygiene has taken a nose-dive, there could be something else wrong.
Mothers with postpartum depression may neglect their baby’s hygiene as well as their own, refusing to change their diaper or wash the child.
4. You Think of Harming Yourself
Thoughts of self-harm are a symptom of many forms of depression and they are thoughts that can come in many forms. This can range from from a feeling that your family would be better off without you to thoughts about how much easier life would be if you weren’t there.
If you are having thoughts like this you should seek help immediately. There is always someone willing to listen and help.
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 800-273-8255 until you are able to get an appointment with your doctor. If you live outside the United States, you can find more details on helplines like this by visiting this Wikipedia page.
You should also discuss these thoughts with a loved one.
5. You Don’t Need All The Symptoms
If you tick a few of these boxes, but not all of them, you could still have postpartum depression. You don’t need to be suffering from all of these symptoms. In fact, many women with mild or moderate forms of this condition will only recognize a few of the aforementioned symptoms.
Here is where some of the myths about postpartum depression come in. There is a belief that women with this condition will hurt their kids, and this stems from people confusing postpartum depression with postpartum psychosis, a much more serious and considerably rarer condition.
In fact while postpartum depression can occur in as many as a fifth of all women, postpartum psychosis occurs in around 0.10% of new mothers.
How to Seek Help for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can last between 1 and 2 years, but nearly a third of women who don’t receive treatment still report feeling symptoms as many as 3 years after childbirth.
It’s something that many women assume they have to fight on their own and something that can be passed off as “normal,” therefore not treated with the respect that it deserves.
It’s like any other medical condition – ignoring it will only needlessly prolong the suffering and could make the symptoms worse. If you believe that you, or someone you love, may be suffering from postpartum depression, you should seek help.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a recommended first course treatment for those displaying mild to moderate symptoms, but there are other options available.
A physician can recommend the best course of treatment. They will take symptoms and personal history into account (women with past incidences of depression or anxiety are more at risk) and will then advise the best treatment.
Getting help is the first step to recovery and the first step to ensuring a better life for you and for your growing family.
Nicky Sarandrea is a freelance writer and digital marketer in the health and fertility sector. He writes content for companies like AZ Fertility, and in the last few years he has published dozens of health-related pieces under several different pen names.
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