Welcoming a new baby into your family is a beautiful thing, a time of joy. But for some mothers, there is sadness, worry, or irritability instead.
“I had already had the most beautiful baby in the world. She came out like the wind and as many put it, she was the Gerber baby, not a freckle or a hair out of place. But then all of the sudden I started to cry and feel guilty, as I wanted my old life back. I was terribly overwhelmed. “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.” I felt like I just couldn’t handle being a mother. I felt guilty because I felt I should be handling motherhood better than this. The child deserved better, I was failing. I worried if the child could tell that I felt so bad, or that I was crying so much, or that I didn’t feel the happiness or connection that others said I would? I felt irritated and angry. I had no patience. Everything annoyed me. I felt sadness to the depths of my soul. I could not stop crying; I could not concentrate or remember things. I felt apart from everyone, like there was an invisible wall between the rest of the world and me. I knew something was wrong, I was not feeling right. I started having disturbing thoughts; I had a sense of dread, like something terrible was going to happen or happening. Some of these were related to injuring myself; some were about abusing my baby. I knew these feelings were not right, but I couldn’t stop thinking of it. Finally I sought counseling…”
If you are experiencing thoughts like these, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a serious mental illness that can affect women after giving birth.
Postpartum depression can develop from a few weeks up to a year after pregnancy (most commonly within the first three months).
Postpartum depression can affect any new mother, including mothers who have already had children, as well as adoptive mothers.
As with any depression, if untreated, postpartum depression could lead to suicide.
Baby blues is similar to postpartum depression, but lasts only a very short time (less than 2 weeks) and is most common for first-time moms.
While any mother could experience postpartum depression, certain factors put her at higher risk:
If she experienced her pregnancy, birth, postpartum recovery, or early parenting as especially stressful or traumatic
History of mood disorders (depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder) or anxiety
History of abuse; childhood trauma
Family history of mental illness
Recent stressful life events (marriage, divorce, death of a loved one, new job, loss of job, moving)
Stressful family, housing, or financial situation
A high-needs baby (excessive crying)
Lack of social support
Symptoms can include the following:
Sadness, hopelessness, anger, irritability, anxiety, guilt
Feeling unable to bond with baby
Feeling foggy, disconnected, confused, unable to think clearly
Unable to enjoy things (or dull, empty, or numb feeling)
Frequent ups and downs in mood
When to seek help?
Symptoms last longer than 2 weeks or continue to get worse
Having difficulties taking care of self or baby
Thoughts of harming self or baby
What can I do about postpartum depression?
Counseling- therapy can help you realize you are not alone and this is not your fault. A therapist can assist you on getting back on track. (Maya organization offers individual counseling sessions for postpartum depression.)
Phototherapy- Also known as light therapy, phototherapy exposes one to daily to artifical light (often covered by insurance). During phototherapy, you sit or work near a device called a light therapy box. The box gives off bright light that mimics natural outdoor light. Phototherapy is thought t to affect brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, easing postpartum and other depressive symptoms.
Medication- some women find antidepressants may help.
If you are experiencing any form of postpartum depression, or feel you might be at risk, please call our office at 412-945-7670 ext 102, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, to schedule an evaluation with a therapist.