Bringing a new baby in to the world is bound to bring on an overload of emotions, right? How do you know when what you are feeling is a cause for concern?
No new mother wants to hear that she has those dreaded words “Postpartum Depression.” I know when I was diagnosed with it with my son I felt like such a failure as a mother, when I just did not understand what it was or why it was effecting me.
People don’t like to talk about mental health issues, and would rather suffer in silence than admitting something is wrong. Unfortunately, that is the world we live in right now. My hopes in sharing this is that someone somewhere will read it and know they are not alone.
In reality, nobody is safe from experiencing postpartum depression, but there are some factors that make people more likely to develop it. There are three types of depression under the postpartum umbrella: The Baby Blues, Postpartum Depression, and Postpartum Psychosis.
It can effect new mothers, mothers who already have children, fathers, as well as adoptive parents.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression is depression that can start anytime during pregnancy, and can occur anytime up until one
year after the birth of your child. It can also occur after experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth.
There is no real concrete evidence to what causes it, or who will get it, but there are a few factors that may make certain women more susceptible to getting it in their lifetime.
- Age at time of pregnancy – younger women are more likely to get PPD
- History of depression – before or during pregnancy
- Other children – the more children you have, the more likely you are to get PPD
- Unsure feelings about pregnancy
- Marital conflict
- Living alone
- No social supports
- Excessive worry about childbirth, and parenting
- A complicated labour and delivery
- A complicated recovery after L&D – urinary incontinence, anemia, change of body image
- Financial difficulties – stressing about money and how you will financially support your new baby
- History of mental health and substance abuse issues
- Difficulty breastfeeding
As you can see there is a wide array of causes, so it is important that you and your partner or support people know about them and what to look out for. Often times it will be someone else such as a partner, or other family member that will notice the signs and symptoms before you do.
What Are The Symptoms?
The two most reported symptoms from people that experience PPD is:
- A deep feeling of sadness or hopelessness everyday
- Losing interest in day to day activities, not finding pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
If you are experiencing these two symptoms over a few days it is best to get to your doctor or midwife to discuss it further. Your healthcare practitioner will then screen you with a depression questionnaire to assess you further.
Other symptoms include:
- Sleeping too much or not enough – I know this is difficult when you have a newborn to take care of, but you will either struggle to get out of bed each day, or become somewhat wired and unable to sleep at all.
- Loss or sudden gain of weight – Not wanting to eat at all, or binging on food.
- Inability to sit still – Fidgety, nervousness, most likely others will notice this symptom before you do.
- Severe mood swings – Times of excessive crying to extreme happiness
- Difficulty bonding with baby – Pushing baby away is also a sign
- Fear that you are not a good mother
- Anger outbursts
- Inability to make decisions
- Feeling unworthy or guilty – Worrying that people don’t like you.
- Suicidal thoughts
Postpartum Depression in new Fathers
As I mentioned above, men can also experience Postpartum Depression or “Paternal Postpartum Depression” after the birth or loss of a child. About 10% of fathers experience some sadness during this time, and most think of it as just an emotional hangover after all the excitement of welcoming a new baby.
Younger fathers who have a history of mental health issues, or previously being diagnosed with depression are most at risk, however, financial stress, and relationship worries are also high on the list of making men more likely to experience this.
Other symptoms of PPPD include:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs (prescription or street)
- Sudden impulsiveness or risky behaviour
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies, or sex
- Frustration and irritability
- Increased complaints of stomach issues, headaches, body pain
- Being easily stressed
- Violent behaviour and increased anger
- Feeling discouraged or inadequate
- Isolation from family and friends
- Suicidal thoughts or planning
Studies have shown that if a woman is suffering from postpartum depression her spouse is two times as likely to experience it as well.
Men are less likely to admit to feeling down, or depressed and often times will try to hide it.
There is some stigma in the world we live in that men are supposed to be strong and not have feelings, this is a load of bull. Depression is real and can effect anyone regardless of age, race, or sex. There is nothing to be ashamed of if you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression.
Shit happens, the best thing you can do is deal with it in the proper way and take the proper steps in to having it treated.
Suicide is a very real symptom of depression, and one that will most likely not be seen by the outside. It is important to seek help before it is to late.
The Baby Blues and Postpartum Psychosis
What’s the difference?
The Baby Blues
This is the very raw and very emotional two weeks that follow the birth of your child. The baby blues is the least severe form of postpartum depression. Approximately 70-80% of women experience the baby blues, and they do go away. The baby blues are thought to be caused by the extreme hormonal changes that take place in the body after labour and delivery.
Symptoms of The Baby Blues include:
- Weeping or crying for no reason – not feeling sad, yet feeling teary
- Mood swings
- Trouble sleeping
The symptoms of the baby blues do not last all day. You will experience moments throughout each day anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or so. The baby blues should go away within fourteen days of delivery. If they do not, it is probably time to talk to your doctor because you may have postpartum depression.
This is the most severe type of postpartum depression, and is considered a medical emergency. This needs treatment right away as there is a great risk of harming yourself or your baby. Call 911 if you think you are experiencing postpartum psychosis, especially if you are alone.
Symptoms can start anywhere within the first three weeks after delivery and can include:
- Extreme restlessness
- Extreme agitation
- Sudden bizarre behaviour
- Hallucinations including sight, smell, hearing or touch
- Extremely confused and disoriented
- Delusional thinking or seeming out of reality
Most who experience Postpartum Psychosis do not realize that they are experiencing it. It is up to the family members or partners to keep an eye out for this, especially if a woman has gone through it with previous children.
Treatment and Diagnosis
More than likely you will attend your doctors office for a six-week postpartum check up. The doctor will likely screen you for any signs and symptoms of PPD without you even knowing. They may request some blood tests, in hopes of eliminating other possible factors for how you are feeling.
If you and your doctor decide that you need a course of treatment for your depression, you do have options.
Psychotherapy is often recommended to mothers who do not want to take medication right away. It is essentially talk therapy or counselling. Your doctor may do the counselling themselves, or they may refer you to someone who deals specifically with women who are experiencing postpartum depression, such as a reproductive psychiatrist.
If medication is needed, you doctor will probably suggest an antidepressant. Although medication does pass through breast milk, there are some safe options to take that seem to have no effect to your newborn baby. You and your doctor can discuss the potential risks and benefits of the medication.
If you are suffering from Postpartum Psychosis, a different course of treatment will be used. Most likely you will be admitted to the hospital for continuous care. A combination of medication including Benzodiazapenes, mood stabilizers, and anti psychotics will be prescribed to control your symptoms.
Some cases are so severe that there is little improvement with medication. In that case Electroconvulsive Therapy will be used. This is a procedure where small electrical currents are passed through the brain which initiate small seizures. It has been known to improve symptoms of psychosis by changing the chemistry of the brain ever so slightly.
Important to Remember…
It is very important to be aware and know the signs and symptoms of depression. The earlier the treatment intervention starts, the better your chances are of getting through the fog without severe measures.
Remember to take care of yourself during those early months, as hard as it is with a new baby relying on you 24/7 you need to make sure you are functioning properly in order to be a responsible parent.
Ask for help around the house, get out for a walk and some fresh air, and eat a healthy diet including fresh fruits and veggies.
I experienced severe postpartum depression with my firstborn, and was very aware of the signs and symptoms when I had my second child. If you need anymore information, or someone to talk to please don’t’t hesitate to reach out to me or someone close to you! It could save your life!