“Parenthood always comes as a shock. Postpartum blues? Postpartum panic is more like it. We set out to have a baby; what we get is a total take-over of our lives.” -Polly Berrien Berends
About one woman in every seven will experience a period of depression after her baby is born. When you think about the massive effort, the complex cocktail of hormones and the sudden vacuum the baby leaves in the body, it’s astonishing that it doesn’t happen to every woman. And it can be tricky to spot because different personalities manifest Postpartum Depression differently.
The most common signs of PPD are:
Anger: Irritability is a classic sign of postpartum depression. Yet, so many women experience this. “It’s not ‘if’ you see red, it’s ‘when’ your see red,” one delivery nurse said to a new mom. It may come in the form of wanting to control all things relating to the baby, frustration that the baby isn’t sleeping, or irritation with visitors, relatives or maternity caregivers.
Brain Fog: You will find you are not often thinking clearly, forgetting, misplacing, and not nearly as organized as your were pre-baby.
Scary Thoughts: It’s a wakeup call that you are not in control of your own thoughts. Sometimes it’s imagining that something horrible will happen to the baby, you might dream that you do something terribly irresponsible or that you actually fantasize about hurting the baby yourself. This is a big indicator that you are PPD and not a horrifying monster.
Insomnia: All new moms are tired, but being on high alert means that sometimes you can’t sleep even when you have the opportunity.
Physical symptoms: Some women experience physical discomfort from PPD, like headaches, backaches, stomach issues or other chronic health issues. So if you are seeing a collection of these symptoms surface in your new world, absolutely talk to your doctor. Don’t blow it off as a temporary or unimportant condition; PPD is a side effect of pregnancy and it has real and lasting consequences for new mothers.
Here are some immediate recommendations for PPD:
1.Dedicated Mommy-free Time. It’s helpful to schedule some dedicated “me time” at least once a week. Even if you take a walk between nursing sessions, you need time to decompress. Don’t clean the house with your “me” time, go to a movie, read a book, visit with a friend baby free. And don’t take your purse, just stick your things in your pockets and remember what it feels like to carry nothing.
2. Stay active. It is really very important to keep the mood elevated. Even ten minutes a day of yoga, swimming, a couple turns around the jogging track will do the trick.
3. Call in the troops. Let your people know you need some help with meals, laundry, or taking out the garbage. Take as many tasks off your plate as possible and concentrate on bonding with your baby.
4. Try fish oil. Some studies suggest that the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish can lessen the severity of PPD.
5. Don’t isolate yourself. Have some trusted friends come over to help out, and get out of the house regularly, even just to take the baby for a stroll. Be honest about how you are feeling and keep a journal to help get the feelings out of your system. They will pass if you allow yourself to process them.
It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your health care professional if feelings of depression continue after birth, and bring your partner, your mom or a close friend to the appointment so that someone is there to record your doctor’s advice. These symptoms are treatable, and the more preventive care you can manage in the beginning, the more you can enjoy your time with your infant.