The birth of your child can cause a roller coaster of emotions. It is a happy occasion that makes you feel excited, but on the other hand, you may find yourself experiencing fear and uncertainty. Many new moms are embarrassed by these feelings, thinking this should be one of the happiest days of their lives, but they don’t feel that way so they don’t talk about it.
The sadness some women feel after the birth of their baby is usually short-lived and often referred to as the Baby Blues. These typically last about 6 weeks. However, some moms can experience severe and long-lasting postpartum depression (PPD). This is a mood disorder that commonly impacts women within the first twelve months after giving birth. It is a debilitating disorder that falls in between the two medical specialties, OB-GYN and psychiatry, and often, unfortunately, falls between the cracks and remains untreated.
PPD is a form of major depression that is characterized by symptoms such as extreme sadness, anxiety, indifference, and changes in sleep, energy, and appetite. Symptoms like severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with your baby, panic attacks, recurrent thoughts of self-harm, and intense anger are also included. Left untreated, PPD can put you and your child in harm’s way.
If you think that you are going through PPD, you must call your doctor to get the help you need. However, this is easier said than done. Admitting that you are feeling depressed after a happy occasion can be hard. Just know that it’s alright to seek help and that you need to do this for yourself and your baby.
You should contact your doctor when:
- The symptoms you observed don’t fade after 2 weeks.
- The symptoms are getting worse.
- You can’t cope and function normally.
- If you feel severe anxiety or fear.
If you have a history of depression or there is a history of depression in your family, tell your obstetrician about this during your first prenatal visit. Your physician is then alerted to watch for signs of postpartum depression in your visits after your baby is born. This can also help you get an early diagnosis and get the help you need as early as possible.
It is possible to treat postpartum depression through psychotherapy, medication, or a mix of both. Psychotherapy will help you find better ways to cope with your feelings by talking with a counsellor. On the other hand, medications like antidepressants can be recommended by your doctor to help you feel better. If you are breastfeeding, most antidepressants will add little to no risk to your baby, but your physician can discuss this with you and review possible medications. You will have the final decision over your choice of treatment but consulting with your doctor or a mental health professional will help you choose the best course of action.
It is also important to note that while this commonly occurs in mothers, there is still a possibility of fathers going through PPD. In men, postpartum depression appears later and manifests differently. Paul Banas interviewed me about postpartum depression in men who can struggle with postpartum depression and experience severe anxiety. Fortunately, the medical community is now urging health care providers to check up on any new parent’s mental health, regardless of their gender.