Having a baby brings about a great deal of change in a parent’s life, whether they’re having their first child or they’ve had children before.
The people in your life may have mentioned many of the changes you can expect when having a baby, but rarely do our families and friends talk about the negative emotional changes we may experience.
After childbirth, you may be feeling less than delighted at the changes in your life. While it’s normal to feel some degree of emotional upset following such a big change, it’s important to differentiate normal baby blues from postpartum depression, a serious and often long-lasting mental health condition.
Baby Blues Explained
The period known as the “baby blues” tends to set in between three and five days after giving birth. Symptoms of the baby blues typically last about two weeks and can bring about strong emotions that seem uncharacteristic for such a joyous occasion.
If you’re experiencing the baby blues, you might be feeling anxious, might cry on and off, and you may be feeling stressed or overwhelmed with your new baby/babies. These symptoms usually come and go throughout the day.
The baby blues are perfectly normal, as your hormones experience a lot of fluctuation following childbirth. These hormonal changes paired with the change in routine and lack of sleep as you get accustomed to having a child can have negative effects on your emotional wellbeing.
Fortunately, these symptoms fade away within a couple of weeks following your baby’s birth. The baby blues are very different from postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Postpartum depression differs from baby blues in a number of ways. For one, the timeline of this disorder may affect new parents for a year or more. The onset of postpartum depression usually takes place weeks to months following childbirth and the symptoms do not fluctuate as often as baby blues symptoms.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Fatigue and sleep disturbances
- Extreme stress
- Sadness, fear, or hopelessness
- Feelings of emptiness or lack of emotion
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Emotional detachment from your baby
- Thoughts of self-harm, or thoughts of harming your child
Postpartum depression can affect both mothers and fathers, especially those who are relatively young, experience financial hardship following childbirth, have suffered depression in the past, or happen to experience trouble in their relationships.
Parents face additional risks of developing postpartum depression when they experience the following issues around the time of the child’s birth:
- Lack of social support
- Depression during the pregnancy
- Coping with an unplanned pregnancy
- Current life stresses
- Having an infant with a challenging temperament
- Having a high-risk pregnancy or traumatic birth
- Difficulty with feeding
How Do I Know If I Have Postpartum Depression?
At first, baby blues and postpartum depression can feel similar, and it can be challenging to be sure of exactly what you’re experiencing. A couple of ways to tell postpartum depression apart from baby blues is to be aware of the following warning signs.
- Symptoms do not fade away after a couple of weeks
- Symptoms become more severe as time passes
- Symptoms interfere with your ability to care for yourself or your baby
- Thoughts of self-harm occur more frequently or with more intensity
What Should I Do?
If you or a loved one worry that you may be experiencing postpartum depression, there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, it’s important to realize that having postpartum depression is not your fault. It does not make you a bad person or a bad parent, and you’re not alone in your experience. There is no shame in needing help.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s good to talk to your partner or someone you trust about how you’re feeling. This is especially true if you’re worried about seeking professional help. A supportive family member or friend can provide you with the support that you need in order to get help.
However, if you do not have a support system, or if the people in your life minimize your feelings, you owe it to yourself to seek support elsewhere.
Postpartum depression is not a normal, natural part of bringing a new life into the world, and as such, it’s important to get the help that you need so that you can recover. Postpartum depression is not an issue you can wait out or will away.
If you’re having a difficult time caring for yourself or your child due to the symptoms you’re experiencing, it’s crucial that you seek the help of a licensed mental health professional.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Things may seem bleak when you’re suffering from postpartum depression, but help is available through a variety of mediums. Individuals suffering from postpartum depression can receive help through psychotherapy and counseling services, self-care techniques, medication therapy, or a combination of different therapies.
Help is available. You do not have to work through the symptoms of postpartum depression alone. Reach out and connect with a licensed therapist and start your path to recovery.
If you’d like support through counseling services, please contact our office as soon as you’re ready. We look forward to meeting you and helping you overcome postpartum depression.