Everyone has heard of the “baby blues.” Between exhaustion and hormonal changes, about 80 percent of new mothers experience some version of this very temporary phenomenon. They’ll find themselves feeling sad, anxious, and irritable. Sleep is compromised, and it’s tough to maintain focus. It’s frustrating to feel like this at such an incredible moment of your life, but baby blues typically do not last more than a week or so. Anything that lasts longer warrants far more attention. It could be the beginning of postpartum depression — a diagnosable mental health disorder. Let’s take a closer look and learn a little more.
Postpartum Depression: Causes
The main suspect is always hormones. Progesterone and estrogen levels, by necessity, are highly elevated during pregnancy. However, once you’ve given birth, those levels quickly drop. At the same time, thyroid hormones are returning to normal levels. Mood swings are virtually unavoidable.
On its own, this would be enough to reduce some of the joy of becoming a mother. But the hormonal shifts are not the only factor in play. As touched on above, a lot is going on. For example:
- Feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this event
- Feeling overwhelmed by all the people reaching out and wanting some of your time
- Having no private time to yourself
- Concerns about your mothering skills
- Fears about all the changes — including how your body feels and looks.
It’s not fair, but just when all you want to do is rest and bask in the glow, your circumstances are not cooperating. Left unchecked, this combination of factors can cause postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression: Symptoms
First and foremost, postpartum depression presents with obvious sadness. This can manifest in sudden crying spells and/or second-guessing the entire idea of having a child. You’ll wonder if you have what it takes to be a good mom or ever feel comfortable in such an identity. In addition, symptoms that are common with any kind of depression can emerge. These may include:
- Loss of concentration
- Physical ailments that lack an obvious source (headaches, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, and tense muscles)
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- No longer feel interested in activities that once gave you pleasure.
More Extreme Symptoms
The big red flag for depression is having thoughts of self-harm. This can be present with postpartum depression, but there’s an added element: the new mother can experience intrusive thoughts about hurting their baby. Also, they can feel disconnected from the infant and not show interest in caring for them. Therefore, postpartum depression can cause long-term negative effects on the child — ranging from unhealthy sleep patterns to obesity to underdeveloped social skills.
After nine months of anticipation, postpartum depression is putting a damper on motherhood. A new mother can lose confidence in their ability to raise a child and simply wonder what happened. They need help and support so they can begin making choices that will enhance their resilience. For example:
- Getting rest
- Eating healthy
- Staying engaged with trusted friends and family members
- Reaching out for help with daily functioning
- Daily physical activity
- Joining support groups to connect with other mothers who know the struggle
Self-help is vital, but it’s only part of the solution. If you feel like postpartum depression might be happening to you or someone you know, ask for help from a professional. Working with an experienced therapist is a proven path toward processing and resolving the factors contributing to the problem. Luckily, we have 3 experts on our team who specialize in helping you diagnose and manage postpartum depression: Emily, Amanda, and Sarah. You can schedule for one of them now by clicking here or you can reach out to our Administrative Goddess at email@example.com or even give us a buzz at 301-690-0779. As always, we’ve got you!