Learn about postpartum depression and anxiety. What symptoms are normal? How long does it last and who does it affect? When should you get help for yourself or a loved one?
Have you had a baby in the past year and been struggling? Postpartum depression is more than just the “baby blues” (which happens for about 75% of women) and it comes in many forms. It is estimated that about 15% of mothers experience postpartum depression or anxiety and you may be surprised to hear that 5-10% of fathers experience it as well. It affects every person a little differently, but the following is a list of some possible things you may be thinking or feeling.
- You feel overwhelmed. Beyond feeling like the transition is difficult, maybe you feel like you weren’t cut out for motherhood after all.
- You feel irritable or angry. Everything gets under your skin and you can’t stand the crying. You frequently need to hand the baby to your partner or walk out of the room, because you are afraid otherwise you might lose your temper and maybe even hurt the baby.
- You feel numb and dead inside. Aren’t people supposed to feel connected or feel something?
- Feelings of guilt. Maybe you think your baby can tell you are unhappy or secretly resent him for all the added stress. Maybe you feel like adoption would be better because you can’t handle yourself or always be the patient, lullaby-singing mom you thought you’d be.
- Maybe you don’t feel warm and loving toward your baby. You hear other mom’s talk about that instant intense bond and you feel terrible because you don’t feel that or even sometimes feel cold toward your baby.
- You feel scared. Not just a nervousness about learning new things that come with taking care of a baby, but a high level of anxiety about something happening to the baby or even fears you can’t name.
- You feel depressed and hopeless. Maybe you can’t stop crying or imagine that you will ever feel happy again. You feel like a failure, there was such excitement about this child, and now it’s like your joy has been sucked away.
- You can’t stop eating or have lost your interest in eating. Maybe you feel like there’s no point to doing the things you used to enjoy.
- You are seriously sleep deprived, but can’t sleep even when your baby is sleeping. Maybe you can’t turn your mind off, so maybe you feel so anxious that you find yourself constantly checking to make sure the baby’s still breathing.
- You can’t think, concentrate, or make a decision. Maybe you’re even having trouble reading this right now like you’re in a fog and disconnected.
- Maybe you have thoughts of running away from it all or hurting yourself to escape.
- You feel like you have gone crazy and you are not yourself. Maybe you are even seeing or hearing things that you suspect are not real.
- You may be afraid that if you reach out for help you will be judged or even have your baby taken away.
- Maybe you feel like you need to stay busy and relax. You clean the bottles, change a diaper, check if the baby’s breathing, clean the counters, mop the floor, check to make sure the stove is off, and repeat all day long.
- You worry constantly or have disturbing thoughts. Maybe you even think about hurting the baby and it terrifies you. You are afraid to be alone and can’t stop obsessing about the what if’s.
- Maybe your worry escalates into full panic attacks in which your heart races, you can’t breathe, you feel shaky or nauseous.
- Maybe you have physical symptoms such as cramps, muscle aches, stomachaches, headaches (beyond the first two weeks post-delivery)
- You are afraid you will never feel normal again.
If any of these sound like you, you may be in the throes of postpartum depression, or anxiety. These are all normal experiences many women (and men!) go through, but you don’t have to face them alone. After birth there is such an intense hormone shift and couple that with the new little “ball of need” you brought into your life and you have a recipe for serious stress on you and your family.
Depression and anxiety are just as common during pregnancy, but having depression or anxiety before the birth of a baby (pregnant or not) increases your chances of having postpartum, so seeking support early is a good idea. Postpartum depression and anxiety don’t always start on the day your baby is born. Some women experience a short period of peace before the storm hits, and it can hit anytime until your baby is 6 months old and still be considered postpartum.
Some women recover in a matter of weeks from postpartum; others struggle for over a year, but there is no reason to face it alone. Remember this season is temporary, but it is still very difficult.
It is not a sign of weakness, but of courage and strength to reach out and find help. Therapy may not be able to remove your struggles, but it can significantly reduce the severity or duration of your symptoms and you don’t have to face postpartum alone.
We offer individual counseling for postpartum anxiety and depression as well as postpartum therapy groups where you can connect with other moms in the same season of life. It can be very helpful to talk to other women who are going through similar things or have been there.
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby this may be serious, please don’t try to wait out these feelings without talking to someone.
If you are hearing or seeing things including spiritual experiences related to you and your baby, these could be signs of the beginning of postpartum psychosis which can lead people to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. This is an especially serious condition that should be treated by professionals. We can help you to get healthy so you can get back to being you.
IF YOU DON’T REACH OUT TO US, PLEASE REACH OUT TO SOMEONE.