Hello everyone. It’s Monday again. I hope you all had a refreshing and relaxing weekend. Today, I want to take a close look at postpartum depression. Actually, I would be doing a three part series on postpartum. Today, I will be taking a more clinical look at depression as a whole (actually I would be describing what a major depressive disorder could look like). Next week, I will talk more about my struggle with postpartum depression, and the week after that, I will talk about some things that helped me (and might be helpful to others).
The whole journey to motherhood is a very enjoyable time. A mom waits patiently to meet her precious little boy or precious little girl. Sometimes we get anxious to see what our baby will look like. I remember wondering what my children’s personalities would be like. Would they be quiet and reserved or loud and energetic? On the days leading to the due date, moms often get anxious, wondering about labor and delivery. I remember thinking about the pain and if I would be able to handle it all. I also had quite a long and dramatic labor, so my heart was racing for a while.
Generally, we make the assumption that once a baby is born, things just continue to get better and better. Sometimes, motherhood does not begin in fairytale fashion. Some people have difficulty bonding with their babies instantly, and others feel a bond but gradually get sadder and sadder as the weeks go by. Postpartum depression comes with a feeling of isolation as there is the myth that all mothers are supposed to be cheerful at all times.
Clinically, here are some of the symptoms of depression (note that all these symptoms do not need to be met to be officially diagnosed):
1) Depressed mood for most of the day or nearly every day (meaning a feeling of sadness or emptiness). Sometimes the people around you notice a change in your mood, and other times, the new mother is the only one that knows how she is feeling. Some women are able to almost hide these depressed feelings.
2) Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all or almost all activities. This means you find yourself not wanting to engage in activities that you used to like. Sometimes the mother is not even aware that she is withdrawing from her usual activities.
3) Significant weight loss or weight gain (about 5% a month) or a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
4) Insomnia or hypersomnia every day (this means either the inability to sleep or the need to sleep too much).
5) Psychomotor agitation or retardation (this means a feeling of restlessness or a feeling of sluggishness).
6) fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
7) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day. (Sometimes there is the feeling that one is a bad or incapable mother).
8) Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness nearly every day. (Sometimes moms feel very scattered and almost like they are going crazy).
9) Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation, without a specific plan or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
Bear in mind that it is not a good idea to diagnose yourself. The weeks following the birth of a baby are often tumultuous and filled with chaos. Often times moms have a huge adjustment to make after giving birth. There are wonky sleep schedules to deal with, a crying, sometimes colicky baby, hormones out of balance, mom’s body still trying to heal, and all that other stuff. If you find yourself experiencing a lot of the symptoms described above, reach out to a professional or someone you trust and ask for help.
Like I said in the intro, next week I will be talking about my struggles with post partum depression. A lot of moms talk about it in hushed tones, and I believe it is time to be able to talk about it out in the open. Depression happens to even the best moms and it is no different than having a physical ailment. The first step is to get some help and support so that you do not have to suffer in silence or to go through guilt and shame.
Hope I have given you something to think about.