Of all the types of depression to have, it seems to me that Postpartum Depression is one of the saddest. Here you are with a new baby and everyone expects you to be happy. You expect yourself to be happy. So why aren’t you?
Few things change your life as much as parenthood. Your life, in many ways, is no longer your own. The days of living for yourself are over. There’s a new little life depending on you, and that can feel overwhelming. You may even feel a little resentful that nothing will ever be the same. You are no longer just “you.” You are now also “Mom.”
Your body needs to heal from the pregnancy and birth, but you can’t get enough sleep because you have to care for your baby. Your hormones are fluctuating, and your breasts and groin are sore. It’s no wonder you feel depressed!
To top it off, women in America don’t get the support that many other countries provide to new mothers. Most other industrialized nations provide several weeks, or even months, of paid leave from work. It is customary in China and some Latin American nations for the new mother to stay home and recover for a month or more after giving birth, and family and friends pitch in to be sure she can do it. In American, it’s usually just the woman and the baby’s father trying to handle everything themselves.
A certain amount of moodiness or sadness is common after giving birth. It’s called “the baby blues” and usually goes away on its own. The Baby Center website discusses the baby blues and how to deal with them.
Postpartum depression, though, is different than the baby blues. The symptoms are more severe and don’t go away without treatment. It makes it impossible to enjoy what should be a special time in your life, and it makes it hard to be the best mother you can be. While all moms feel overwhelmed sometimes, this feeling is even worse and more persistent in moms suffering from postpartum depression. The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to those of major depressive disorder. These mothers may feel tearful, sad, helpless and hopeless, experience poor concentration and forgetfulness, and think of suicide or death. This website has good information about this disorder.
While it’s not a form of depression, Postpartum Psychosis is so serious that I feel I must discuss it. It is the most dangerous postpartum mental illness, in which the mother becomes psychotic after having a baby. She may have hallucinations (see, hear, feel, smell, or taste things that aren’t really there) and delusions (false beliefs, like she has to sacrifice her baby to God or that she must stop feeding her baby because milk is impure). This is an extremely serious condition that may make the mother a danger to herself and her baby. This is a medical emergency and the mother must be treated immediately. I can’t emphasize this enough: If you think you or a loved one is having signs of postpartum psychosis, get help NOW, as the mother and baby are both at risk. For more information on postpartum psychosis, visit the Postpartum Progress and Pregnancy Info.net websites.
If you have suffered depression before, you are more likely to develop postpartum depression. If you have experienced psychosis before, you are more likely to develop postpartum psychosis. (Lucky you, eh?) But remember, knowledge is power, and if you’ve had depression or psychosis in the past, you know what to look for, and you can reach out for help quicker.
Postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis can both be successfully treated. Then you can begin to experience the joys of motherhood and deal better with the normal ups and downs of your new life as a mom. The life of a mother is never 100% roses; there are thorns there, too. Your own mother or friends who are also moms can help you deal with those. For postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, though, you will need professional help.