By Kayla Richard, Richard graduated with a BS in Agriculture Education and a MS in Agriculture, both from West Virginia University. She worked for Purdue Extension for two years as the 4-H Youth Extension Educator. She has spent the last 8 years as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator for public schools in Indiana focusing on the areas of health, wellness, child development and early childhood education.
Since the beginning of time, women have been giving birth and then having to heal from the event during the postpartum period that follows. However, it was not until the late 1980’s that awareness began to surface on the prevalence of postpartum depression and the struggles that many women go through during recovery.
It is far from uncommon for new mothers to be told that they have a case of the “baby blues” and encouraged to dismiss any overwhelming feelings they may be having once they bring their newborns home. For some, this very well may be the case. While the majority, 70-80% of new mothers will have some level of emotional irregularity that is indeed what we consider as baby blues, another 10% will go on to suffer from something more severe that they very well may not be able to simply “shake off”.
It is obvious that your body takes on a lot when it goes through the labor and delivery process. However, there is more happening that we are not able to see. The vast amount of hormone fluctuations that are happening even after the baby is being held by their mom and dad are incredible. The mother’s body is already beginning to heal and trying to shrink the uterus back to its normal size. Her body is also working to produce milk, increase maternal instincts, and working to re-regulate every hormone level that has been off for the last nine months. Is it so crazy then, to think that her brain is also going to be dealing with many changes as well? Of course not. Then combine that with the lack of sleep and exhaustion, which also comes with being a new parent, and it makes sense why almost every mother will struggle with this for the first few weeks after giving birth. In fact, some say they have a more difficult time with emotional regulation during this time than they did during their actual pregnancy.
Since you now know that this happens to almost every new mother, we hope you will not allow yourself to feel ashamed or somehow guilty for feeling this way after giving birth. Within a week or two, you will start feeling better and being able to control your own feelings again. However, if after a couple weeks you are still having problems, you may have something going on deeper than the typical baby blues. So how do you know if you have postpartum depression and not just the baby blues? Here are some key things to watch for:
- Feelings lasting more than 2 weeks
- Feelings not going away and always lingering
- Feeling restless/moody
- Having thoughts of self-harm
- Loss of energy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Experiencing memory loss
- No sense of connection/bond with baby
- Feeling like a bad mother
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Having thoughts of harming the baby
If you are experiencing any of these, first know that you, again, are not alone. Postpartum depression occurs in more than 1 out of every 10 new mothers. That may seem like a low percentage, but this accounts for hundreds of thousands of women every year. If you believe that you are beginning to show symptoms of postpartum depression, there are many things that can help. The first being to ask for help. This could mean talking to your doctor, your spouse or partner, your friends – whomever you feel comfortable with to reach out to. Your physician will be able to direct you to further help, which could include running some blood tests, prescribing medication, or possibly recommending someone else to talk to that is more qualified in that area.
Things you can do at home are, first, get as much rest as possible. You have probably heard someone say “sleep when the baby sleeps” which we know is easier said than done, but it is important to try as much as possible. A lack of sleep can cause many of the same symptoms as postpartum depression. Also, be sure you are eating healthy foods as much as possible and drinking plenty of water, especially if breastfeeding. The last is to try to get some fresh air and sunlight. This may be hard if your little one had a winter due date but make every attempt you can. If nothing else, going to get the mail each day or walking the dog can help.
While it is not the best part by any means, this too is still one of the many parts of parenthood. Just like all the others, you will get through this. Never hesitate to reach out to other parents to see how they handled things. You may be surprised at what you find out when you do.
**Remember- Reach out if you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else, including your child. If you do not have anyone else in your life that you feel comfortable talking to the following are resources, you may be able to turn to:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE
National Postpartum Depression Line: 1-800-PPD-MOMS Postpartum Support International: 1-800-944-4773
Medically Reviewed and Fact-Checked by: Kimberly Langdon M.D., et al. “Statistics on Postpartum Depression – Postpartum Depression Resources.” PostpartumDepression.org, 3 June 2021, https://www.postpartumdepression.org/resources/statistics/.
Bradley, Sarah. “Baby Blues: How Long They Last and What You Can Do.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 7 May 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/baby-blues#vs-postpartum-depression.
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Being a new mom is much easier, when you have a group of other new moms who you can reach out to with questions and for support!
You are not alone!
Did you know that there is a Facebook group for Mothers on MAT?