When you become a mother, you instantly become the ultimate guide for your child; the person with all the answers– whether that is true or not. But before you even get to questions about life and love with your child, you might notice some feelings in yourself that you don’t even know how to respond to. If you think you might be suffering from Postpartum Depression, Kids in the House has the resources you need to check symptoms, understand the disease, and learn how to move forward.
Here’s How I’m Feeling
Before you do anything else, take the time to consider the symptoms you’re experiencing that have you or others worried. Keeping a journal around can be an effective method of keeping track of your emotional transitions throughout the day while also making sure none of what you feel is forgotten.
Time is always in short supply as a mother, but think of these little moments spent thinking about your feelings as a way of giving back to you and your baby. Having an accurate description of what you’re going through is one of the best ways to get an accurate diagnosis from a medical professional. It can also help you organize your thoughts in order to begin a conversation about your concerns with your spouse or family.
Symptoms to be aware of:
- Inability to Cope– even with the most simple task
- Insomnia –even when someone else is taking care of your baby
- Mood Swings
- Loss of Appetite
- Wanting to be Isolated or Withdrawn
- Feeling guilty, shameful, or worthless
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
Is it Postpartum Depression or Baby Blues?
There is a distinction between Postpartum Depression and experiencing some post-baby blues. Your specific combination of symptoms must be considered in conjunction with their respective severities by a medical professional to know where you stand definitively.
You can get a better idea of which category you fall into, however.
“The difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is that approximately 80% of all women [who give birth] experience the baby blues, which are feelings of some sadness, maybe some weepiness, some irritability, some anxiety,” says Kimberly Wong, attorney and Postpartum Depression activist.
Postpartum Depression is differentiated from baby blues by severity and duration of those symptoms.
“With the baby blues, even though they don’t feel good, they are mild and they don’t get in the way of a woman’s daily functioning. It doesn’t get in the way of her sleep and shouldn’t get in the way of her appetite,” says Dr. Shoshana Bennett, PhD.
Approximately 80% of all women who have given birth experience baby blues, which can resolve itself within two to three weeks without professional treatment or intervention. For these women, having friend and family support can make the necessary difference.
On the other hand, Postpartum Depression feels inescapable.
“Postpartum depression is a severe, long-lasting depression that occurs after the birth of the child. It starts out as baby blues, but the symptoms are much more intense and severe,” explains ObGYN Dr. Shamsah Amersi, MD.
A woman with this condition feels the weight of it constantly and can not resolve the feelings of intensifying anxiety, sadness, or inadequacy on their own or with general support of family and friends. About 1 in 6 new mothers will experience this between pregnancy and the first year after the baby is born.
Who Do I Talk To?
Seeking professional counseling or medical advice is always our recommendation when it comes to health uncertainties. As the new caretaker to your child, your health is paramount to both you and your baby’s successful futures.
“When a woman starts feeling that these initial factors are intensifying or they are starting to spin out of control and the level of anxiety, the level of sadness, the level of fear, the level of depression is rising, then it is imperative that she see her doctor or a mental health professional right away to be screened and diagnosed for potential postpartum depression or a related mood disorder,” says Wong, founder and co-chair of the Los Angeles County Perinatal Mental Health Task Force.
If it is a comfortable option, include your friends and family in this difficult period. Postpartum Depression may not be solved by familial support alone, but finding and implementing a solution by yourself can be added stress that you simply can not take on at the moment.
Finding the right medical professional for your specific case is not always as easy as a Google search. Most likely, you are already in touch with a pediatrician, OBGYN, and your general health practitioner, but knowing which one to assign your postpartum depression care to depends on their area of expertise, not the initials on their lab coat.
“The key here is to listen to the doctor who has the clinical expertise; the doctor that has really been working with women around this issue,” says Bennett, a clinical psychologist and postpartum specialist.
Bennett suggests beginning your search for treatment by researching psychiatrists.
“If you can find a psychiatrist who has that expertise and specializes in this, that might be your best choice. Psychiatrists are taught how to dose [and] how to monitor, so you are not just handed a prescription and sent on your way.”
Prescription medication is just one of the ways you can tackle Postpartum Depression.
What Will Help
“Postpartum depression is easily treatable once you ask for help,” says Amersi. “The treatments for postpartum depression include a combination of psychotherapy as well as pharmacotherapy.”
- Counseling: Find therapists who do short-term therapy to help create a rapid wellness strategy
- Joining Support Groups: Seek the advice and support of other parents struggling through the same experience
- Pharmaceutical Medication: A range of prescriptions, from antidepressants to neurotransmitter inhibitors, exist and can be effective.
Actually asking for help might not feel like an enticing option, for a few reasons.
“Often women are afraid to come forward. They’re reluctant to go to their doctors and say, ‘I don’t feel well,’ because they think, ‘All that’s going to happen is that I’m going to get a prescription and then I might be stuck on it forever,’” says Bennett.
This is definitely not the case for every woman who begins prescription treatment for postpartum depression, but nevertheless, if pharmaceuticals are not for you, alternative approaches are available.
- Me Time: Allotting time spent away from the baby for things that make you happy
- Lifestyle Adjustments: Limiting alcohol and caffeine. Increased exercise.
- Set Realistic Expectations for yourself: Let go of the pressure to be the perfect parent and concentrate on improving your postpartum depression one day at a time.
- Surround yourself with non-judgmental people who prioritize your health and needs.
“If mommy is not okay then the family is not doing well. She should definitely not try to tough it out. She should get the help she needs and that she deserves,” says Bennett.
The time after giving birth can seem overwhelmingly focused on your new baby, but know that your health must never go ignored. It is not a one or the other dynamic.
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