It can be very difficult to know which way is up after having a baby. Depending on your pregnancy, your delivery, your health, mental health and the health of your baby (let alone lack of sleep) most women feel out of sorts. So how do you know if you have the baby blues, postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA)?
Many women, up to 80 percent, feel some depression or anxiety for several days to two weeks after delivery. Since your body and your life go through some MAJOR changes, naturally, the body and mind will be working to level back out in the postpartum period. However, for up to 20% of women, feelings of worry and feeling down or sad last longer than 2 weeks and can range from relatively mild to very intense symptoms.
The difference between “the baby blues” and Postpartum Depression (PPD) or Anxiety (PPA) is that baby blues start to go away around two weeks, while depression and anxiety last longer than two weeks. While baby blues can feel intense, it tends to be more mild than depression or anxiety. Also, PPD and PPA can start anytime within a year after delivery.
Some PPD, PPA symptoms
There are many symptoms that you could experience, ranging from mild to severe. You may feel many of these:
Crying spells, irritability, sad or hopeless, feeling down or keyed up, changes in weight and eating, exhaustion from lack of sleep, questioning yourself as a mother and partner, difficult to focus, feeling unsure of yourself in general, feeling guilt or shame, the need to do everything and do it perfectly, worry about being alone with your child or having thoughts of hurting yourself or your child.
If your symptoms lasts more than two weeks or you are feeling scared by your experience, strongly consider getting into individual therapy or a postpartum depression support group. Some of these symptoms are very serious and can greatly effect you, your child and your family.
I feel alone.
I often hear from my clients that they feel alone or feel like they are the only ones going through the pangs and disorientation of postpartum adjustment or mood changes. First things first. You’re not alone. Twenty percent is a big number, postpartum depression is one of the most common “complications” of pregnancy and post delivery.
Well, if it’s so common “why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” We could probably do a research project on why postpartum depression and anxiety aren’t discussed more often or more openly. One side effect of PPD not being discussed more, is that it leaves people feeling alone and marginalized. This isn’t just happening to you and you didn’t do anything wrong. PPD and PPA can happen due to several factors. Some of those factors are: if you’ve ever been depressed or anxious in the past, family history, difficult pregnancy or delivery, the amount of support you have, going back to work and any other stressors. Its a combination of biological, environmental and situational factors.
There is a movement afoot to universally screen for PPD during postpartum and during pregnancy (the mood can change during pregnancy as well, and is also often overlooked by health care practitioners). We all get screened for gestational diabetes and we should also be screened for PPD because it is a health issue. Here’s a link to some more info on PPD through Postpartum Support International: http://www.postpartum.net/Get-the-Facts.aspx
There is information online and in the media about postpartum depression and anxiety, but there still needs to be more discussion, less stigmatization, more training for health care providers and more support for mothers and families. Speaking with a therapist or talking with other mothers who have or are experiencing PPD or PPA can be very helpful in wading through this difficult time. You can feel better, there is help available, just reach out to make the first steps.
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