Having a baby is one of the happiest, most exciting times in your life. Yet it seems everyone around you is more excited than you are. You find yourself feeling overwhelmingly tired, weepy, irritable, moody and sad. You are not enjoying your new baby the way you thought you would. You are not enjoying Motherhood the way you thought you would. If this is supposed to be the happiest time of your life, why do you feel so down?
The transition to parenthood is challenging, physically and emotionally, both for mom and dad. It is very common to feel a wide array of conflicting emotions, from excitement and happiness to apprehension and anxiety. For some new parents, these changes can result in the Baby Blues or Postpartum Mood Disorders.
What are the Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression?
Most mothers (60%-85%) experience some emotional sensitivity, AKA the "baby blues" in the first couple days after having a baby. Common symptoms include:
· Difficulty swallowing
· Feeling weepy and crying spells
· Mood swings
Majority of women report that these feelings usually spontaneously subside within 2-3 days after the baby is born, as mom's hormone levels return to pre-pregnancy levels. However, if your symptoms persist for longer than 2-3 weeks, you may be experiencing some form of postpartum depression.
Common symptoms of Postpartum Depression include but are not limited to:
· lack of energy and feeling exhausted
· difficulty sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time
· feeling weepy and/or sad much of the time
· irritability and mood swings
· difficulty bonding/feeling disconnected with your baby
· feel guilty or inadequate as a mother
· uncontrollable thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
· excessive worrying and feeling afraid that something terrible will befall your new baby.
· feeling very self-critical and reassurance of others does not help
· difficulty completing most basic daily tasks
· frequent thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
· feeling guilty for
your negative thoughts
Postpartum depression often becomes noticeable soon after childbirth but can occur at anytime in the first year. A previous history of postpartum depression, depression during pregnancy and/or social isolation may put you at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
Do Dads Experience Postpartum Depression?
Yes. Fathers can also suffer from baby blues and/or postpartum depression. Just like moms, dads are encouraged to seek the appropriate help as well.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Causes of this condition vary, and can be a combination of several physical and/or emotional factors. Sometimes, the rapid hormonal changes that take place may trigger depression. Additional contributors may include thyroid dysfunction, or changes in blood pressure.
The intense emotions of labor and birth may also contribute to postpartum blues/depression. In addition to excitement and happiness at the birth of a child, there is also the potential for disappointment, if the birth process did not go as expected. All of these things can impact how you feel and your mood after giving birth. Additionally, you are transitioning to a new chapter in your life. Your entire lifestyle is changing, new schedule, and new routine, new member in the family to be cared for. It is common to feel exhausted and overwhelmed and for those feelings to progress into a depression.
Can Postpartum Depression Impact My Baby?
Yes. Research demonstrates that postpartum depression impact both mothers and infants. Postpartum depression can affect your ability to function and take care of yourself and your baby. Postpartum depression interferes with your ability to effectively read babies cues and address his or her needs. Studies show that babies whose mothers are depressed for the first six months:
· have difficulty with self-soothing
· exhibit irritability
· smile less and are less social
· are at risk for poor bonding/attachment with their mothers
· have cognitive delays and later learning difficulties
· have developmental and language delays
(However, the effect of maternal depression on the baby can
be reversed if the baby is cared for by a non-depressed caregiver, such as dad,
mom's partner or a grandparent). In
addition, as your depression improves, there tends to be a reduction in your child's
Do I need to seek treatment?
Yes. Postpartum depression is out of your control - you did not choose to feel depressed and you cannot will it to go away. However, the choice to seek counseling or therapy is in your control. Considering the impact of depression on you and your baby, it is important to seek help right away. Research shows that early identification and psychological treatment of maternal depression is important for both you as a mother and your baby.
Left untreated, PPD will interfere with your ability to care for yourself and your new family. However, with the appropriate treatment, you can get back on the path to becoming a happy and healthy person and parent.
Reference: Gottman, John; Bringing Baby Home, 2000-2008
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