In our previous few posts, we’ve taken a look at what expectant mothers can anticipate in the hours, days, weeks, and months after giving birth. The Tri-Cities Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner of choice is Deanna D. Midwifery, and to that end, we thought it would be a great idea to go into some detail on certain topics that might not necessarily get all merited attention before the birth. This is especially the case with new mothers, we’ve noticed. It makes sense, too, so there is certainly no blame being thrown around. It’s just that expectant mothers will typically focus on pregnancy, delivery, and how to keep their newborn happy and healthy for the first few weeks after birth. Some mothers are so attentive to their little one that they forget about the dramatic bodily changes that occur in the weeks and months after the child is born.
We took a look at some of the bodily and emotional changes that mothers experience after birth while we discussed typical recovery periods and their average duration. At the end of that post, we discussed a look forward to a future post about postpartum depression.
Today we will fulfill that commitment and explore the symptoms and treatment options that some mothers are presented with after they give birth. Keep reading if you would like some useful knowledge about postpartum depression provided to you by your friendly Tri-Cities midwife clinic in Deanna D. Midwifery!
Postpartum Depression And Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are complex occurrences and can be difficult to understand and discuss. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about, though, and we will do our best to do so sensitively while attempting to make it as straightforward as possible. It’s not an easy balance to strike, but we will do our best!
Before we talk about the differences between postpartum depression and anxiety, it’s important to note that the symptoms we will describe are not “black and white” in terms of being an exact replica of the illness. That means it’s not a “cookie-cutter” illness, so some people might experience a few of these symptoms while others may only experience one but quite intensely. The purpose of this post is not to diagnose certain people and exclude others, but to simply be a resource where people can develop a deeper understanding. The fact that right around one in seven women experience the sad feelings and crying following childbirth that some have described as the “baby blues” means the topic is worthy of our analysis.
Let’s start with postpartum depression and some of its symptoms. An estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, up to 20 percent of new mothers experience at least one postpartum depression symptoms. This is where it gets confusing, though, because it can be very difficult to say if you are experiencing clinical depression or you are perhaps merely exhausted and stressed out from being a parent for the first time. One general rule that is helpful, but shouldn’t be taken as authoritative, is to ask yourself if your symptoms, like unhappiness, worry, fatigue, and the like are so severe that you are inhibited in a practical way. If your sense of despair is intense enough to keep you from daily, necessary tasks, then you might be experiencing PPD.
What Are PPDs Symptoms?
As we mentioned, PPD is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of condition. In fact, very few conditions are. But the most common symptoms of PPD are listed below.
- Having trouble making decisions or even concentrating
- Having a difficult time trying to fall asleep during the night
- Trouble staying awake during the day time
- Frequent and incessant crying
- A pervasive feeling of hopelessness, emptiness, or sadness
- Being uncontrollably agitated and irritable
- A distant feeling with family and friends – being unable to connect
- Being anxious, having panic attacks, having racing thoughts
- Changes in sleeping habits and/or eating patterns
- A deep fear that you will not be a good mother
- Recurring thoughts of suicide or death
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Debilitating fatigue and energy loss
- Feeling guilty or shameful
- An inability to enjoy activities you used to always enjoy
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
- Being uninterested in your baby
Now, it’s significant to note that the “baby blues” aren’t the same thing as PPD, although many think of one as the other. The baby blues are known by most as being sad, fearful, tired, and filled with self-doubt during the first few weeks following the birth. Some estimate that anywhere between 40 and 80 percent of new mothers experience some form of the baby blues. The baby blues can also include crying for no apparent reason, being overwhelmed, severe mood swings, and even changes in eating and sleeping habits. So, it’s fairly clear that it can be difficult to decipher between the baby blues and full-on PPD. If you’re a new mother and your symptoms grow in intensity and duration (longer than 2 weeks, typically), you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
Authorities in the field estimate between 10 and 15 percent of new mothers experience some degree of PPD. And while every mom is at risk for PPD, certain environmental factors contribute to its appearance. Some of these factors are listed below.
- Traumatic childbirth experience
- A lacking in social support from family and friends
- Trouble breastfeeding
- A previous history of depression
- Preterm delivery
- Anxiety or depression during pregnancy
- Stressful life events occurring while the mother was pregnant or directly after birth
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Having multiple babies like twins or triples
- Not having a father or partner to help raise the newborn
- Financial instability
- Having a low socioeconomic status
- Family history having psychiatric problems
- A baby with medical issues or defects
- Domestic violence
- Being unemployed
- Gestational diabetes
- A surplus of medical appointments during pregnancy
Treatment for postpartum depression will often look quite similar to how it would be treated before you had your child. If your symptoms are somewhat mild, your certified midwife or physician would likely keep a watchful eye on you while scheduling more frequent appointments. If your symptoms develop to become more intense, with no sign of slowing, your WHNP, midwife, or doctor might recommend talk therapy, antidepressant medication, or some combination of the two. Therapy, or counseling, is where you talk in one-on-one sessions with your therapist, but group-therapy can also be very helpful for new mothers in this situation. There they can find other mothers who truly understand what they are going through. Sometimes, this feeling of being around people who can empathize is sufficiently therapeutic to help alleviate the severity of some of these terrible symptoms.
Antidepressants are prescribed to help balance out an individual’s mood by regulating the brain chemicals that are having trouble doing so. Sometimes combinations of medicines are recommended, and are often helpful after a few weeks of taking them. Although it should be noted that some antidepressants might cause side effects. While we don’t want to speak out of turn, because each situation is different, we would recommend speaking with your medical professional if any side-effects that you’ve experienced begin to hinder your daily activities.
Although we haven’t had time to discuss postpartum anxiety, postpartum psychosis, or postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, we want to take the last portion of this post to encourage any of our readers who are struggling with these symptoms to have the courage to speak with someone who can help. Perhaps the first step is opening up with your partner about your feelings, even if you are embarrassed to not be the stereotypical overjoyed mother. Please don’t feel pressure to behave or feel any particular way. You and your body just experienced something remarkably intense, and some need added measures of aid in recovery.
If that sounds like you, please reach out to us at Deanna D. Midwifery or contact your own doctor. If you choose to contact our midwife clinic, we would be happy to provide you with comprehensive health care, which includes counseling as part of our certified midwife service. Perhaps you’ve already been looking for a midwife in Pasco, Kennewick, or Richland, by typing something like “midwife clinic near me” into your smartphone. Whether that is you or you’ve been doing some online research for yourself or a friend, please know that Deanna D. Midwifery is a WHNP resource we hope you feel like you can utilize. Reach out to us today.