I have wanted to be a mother for as far back as I can remember.
I have always felt that loving my newborn child would bring nothing but joy into my life.
But now that I have this beautiful child of mine to care for, I feel immense sadness and hopelessness.
I feel inadequate, and the feelings of guilt and shame are overwhelming. What is wrong with me?
The Baby Blues
The birth of a baby can trigger a series of emotions that new mothers do not expect, including depression.
It is common to experience feelings of sadness, crying spells, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping after giving birth.
These struggles are referred to as the baby blues, which typically start a couple of days after birth and may last for up to two weeks.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Some new mothers experience lengthier and more severe symptoms, which last longer than a couple of weeks, and this is called postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD is a serious medical condition, which can start any time after childbirth, but more often it sets in one to three weeks after having a baby.
It is estimated that 15% of mothers experience postpartum depression in some form, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The most common signs and symptoms of PPD include:
- Feeling depression, hopelessness, or guilt for at least two weeks
- Feeling panicked or scared most of the time
- Having anxiety about the health and wellness of your baby
- Experiencing severe mood swings
- Having difficulty bonding with your baby
- Experiencing a major change in appetite (either loss of appetite, or eating much more than usual)
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Feeling intense anger or irritability
- Fearing that you are not a fit mother
- Experiencing diminished ability to think clearly or make decisions
- Having extreme restlessness
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or the baby (or thoughts of death or suicide)
Postpartum depression can last for months.
It is much different than common short-lived baby blues that require no treatment.
Untreated PPD can become extremely severe and can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, as well as the wellness of your baby.
You Are Not to Blame for Postpartum Depression
There is no shame in seeking the help that you need!
Carly Snyder, M.D., a reproductive psychiatrist, shares her advice:
“Remember, you are not to blame. There is no shame in experiencing a postpartum mood episode.
You did nothing wrong and are not to blame for your feelings.
Your mood symptoms mean nothing about you as a mother, but rather reflect the hormonal changes that your body is experiencing.
Untreated depression and anxiety may become very severe, so the sooner you ask for help and begin treatment, the better.
Getting help will benefit not only you but also your baby and the rest of your family.
Guilt is a huge component of the reluctance to speak out, and the reluctance to get help.
There is a societal sense of what pregnancy and postpartum should look like, and when a woman has symptoms of depression and anxiety, they often express to me feelings of guilt that they are living up to what they should be as a mother.”
Shame and guilt get in the way of recovery and wellness.
A mother who waits for many months to ask for support can end up with a chronic depressive disorder with debilitating symptoms.
Treatment for PPD
The baby blues go away naturally, but postpartum depression requires treatment.
PPD is typically treated in several ways:
- Counseling – talking to a therapist (such as a psychologist, psychologist, or social worker)
- Medications – antidepressants, and prescribed medications (such as hormone and thyroid function therapies) from your physician to restore balance and relieve symptoms
- Support Groups – people that meet and share their feelings and experiences with PPD may help with managing mild depression
Self-care is important in the prevention and treatment of depression.
This includes reducing stress, staying active, eating well, getting enough rest, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.
Reach Out for Help
Remember, there is no shame in asking for help.
Reach out to your family, friends, or your partner for support.
Visit your physician to rule out any medical conditions.
If you are experiencing depression, ask your physician for a counselor or therapist referral.
If you ever feel like hurting yourself or your baby, you can call for an ambulance (call 911) or go to the emergency room at your local hospital or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
We have several resources here at Western Tidewater Community Services Board (WTCSB) that can help you:
Emergency crisis services are available (counseling, phone consultations, admission screenings for crisis stabilization, psychiatric hospitalizations, and substance abuse inpatient treatment) through our 24-Hour Emergency Service Line, just call (757) 925-2484.
We are here 24/7.
We make access to professional, high-quality, wrap-around care convenient and easy – including Same Day Access for crisis intervention.
You can also call us at (757) 758-5106.