Many new mothers expect to be filled with love, joy and happiness after giving birth. After all, the nine months’ hard work has paid off and now you have a beautiful little baby. However, the reality is that after birth, some mothers are exhausted, moody and overwhelmingly sad. Having the ‘post baby blues’ is a normal phenomenon, but it could also be a sign of postpartum depression.
Extreme feelings of sadness and exhaustion should not just be brushed aside as ‘post baby blues’. Make sure you are aware of the risk factors and warning signs so you can take control of postpartum depression as soon as you can.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is one of a few very common postpartum mood disorders. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single cause; however it’s thought to be a combination of hormonal changes, physical changes and stress. The number of factors which come into play makes postpartum depression difficult to diagnose and to treat. So it’s really important for you and your partner to know the warning signs so that you can get treatment for this illness as early as possible.
Warning Signs Before the Baby
While postpartum depression can’t be diagnosed until after the baby is born, there a few risk factors you can look out for: general mood, previous history of depression, family history and relationship conflict. Of course, none of these risk factors are guaranteed to lead to postpartum depression; however they may increase your susceptibility. If you identify with any of these risk factors, make sure you keep a close eye on warning signs after birth.
Warning Signs After the Baby
If you’ve suffered from depression in the past, you may begin to see additional signs of depression soon after your baby is born. Feeling the ‘post baby blues’ is completely normal for any new mother, however, when feelings of shock or anxiety don’t go away, or if you have feelings of wanting to leave it is probably a sign of postpartum depression.
Here are some other warning signs:
- Having More Bad Days Than Good Ones
It’s normal to have bad days — this is an incredible life transition and the job of a new mother is difficult – but you want to have some good days too. If aren’t having any good days, check in with your doctor.
- Being Unable to Sleep
If you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be a warning sign.
- Thinking Paranoid or Negative Thoughts
Feeling like your baby doesn’t like you could signal depression.
- Isolating Yourself Socially
Mothers should watch if they’re cutting themselves off from friends and family.
- Obsessing Over Things
When you can’t stop anxious or obsessive thoughts from running around your head, you might have postpartum depression or some other postpartum mood disorder that should be treated.
- Feeling like a Failure or a Bad Mother
Watch if these feelings don’t go away or get in the way of your functioning as a mother.
What Should Fathers Do?
Fathers should know the warning signs of postpartum depression when attending to the new mother. If the symptoms of a new mother’s post baby blues last longer than two weeks, it’s time to get some help.
How to Get Help
It’s best to reach out to a professional for help. Call your doctor, midwife or childbirth educator– anyone who has experience with new mothers. These experts will be able to diagnose the problem, provide treatment and direct mothers toward other resources. Paediatricians, too, often keep an eye out for postpartum depression to help new mothers get support from a medical professional.
Sometimes, the treatment may be as simple as setting up a plan of self-care. Is the mother getting rest, breaks, nutrition, exercise and a chance to vent or have some fun? There are also medications that can be taken to address anxiety and depression — some are safe for breastfeeding mothers, though there are more options for non-breastfeeding mothers. Therapy can also help. Remember that your own health is really important when it comes to taking care of your baby, and medication can be a really effective treatment.
Remember that through a combination of support and medication, you can get through postpartum depression. You aren’t alone and getting help can make a world of difference.
You can find more information about postpartum depression, and where to seek help on the Canadian Mental Health Association‘s website.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.