Postpartum Depression

On March 9th of this year, I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. I fell in love with her instantly. I know it’s said that it doesn’t always happen that way, but it did for me. And so it came as a surprise when mere days later I was in tears, overly anxious and feeling quite helpless. Shouldn’t I be happy? Exhausted and tired, yes, but shouldn’t I be celebrating life rather than being an emotional wreck? I had just brought new life into this world.

I watched my husband with out daughter and I felt a pang of jealousy. How could he take to parenthood so easily while I seemed to struggle? In my usual way, I put on a brave face and tried to be strong. I couldn’t stop the tears though. Everyone told me it was normal but to keep an eye on it. Give it two weeks. If I was still feeling low after four weeks, I was advised to talk to my doctor.

When the anxiety failed to lift and the tearfulness continued beyond those four weeks, I began to worry. I couldn’t possibly have Postpartum Depression, could I? I harbored no thoughts of harming myself or my baby. I did not feel distant from her. I told myself that my anxiety, sense of helplessness and guilt were merely normal reactions to being a first time parent. It didn’t matter that I was having trouble sleeping and had lost my pregnancy weight in no time flat because I wasn’t eating. Wasn’t my lack of energy and motivation and my irritability a result of lack of sleep and nourishment? I didn’t have time to take care of myself because I was so busy caring for my little girl. I warred with myself, hesitating to call my doctor because I could easily rationalize how I was feeling. Add to that a feeling of shame that I was having such a hard time dealing with being a mother, for feeling so much anxiety and helplessness.

I actually wasn’t going to say anything to my doctor at all but when I went in for my 6 week postpartum appointment, my doctor asked me a simple question about sleep and I burst into tears. Then it all came out.  I told her about everything I’d been feeling, right down to how afraid I was to leave the house.  She prescribed more sleep and told me to make a point of eating. She told me to rest, not to exercise other than walking and advised me not to do any housework but rather hand it over to family. She said no stress (with a move coming at that time, I knew that was impossible). If in a week I wasn’t feeling better to contact her and we would take it from there. She also suggested I talk to a hospital social worker specializing in Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum Depression often goes undiagnosed for several weeks, even months, after the birth of a child. Medical personnel are more aware of the condition these days and so try and identify it early on, sometimes even before a child is born. There is no known cause for Postpartum Depression although there are several risk factors that may lead to it. A history of depression, a traumatic event or excessive stress during or after pregnancy, hormonal changes, and a lack of support are among the risk factors.

Many symptoms of Postpartum Depression are quite normal during the first two to three weeks after the birth of a child and are referred to as the Baby Blues. If symptoms last beyond that, however, there is cause to worry. Postpartum Depression is not uncommon but it does need attention as it can have a lasting impact on the mother, the child and the family unit. It is a very real illness, one worth seeking help for. There are medications as well as counseling services available to women who may need it.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression may include
Lack of interest in your baby
Negative feelings towards your baby
Worrying about hurting your baby
Lack of concern for yourself
Loss of pleasure
Lack of energy and motivation
Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
Changes in appetite or weight
Sleeping more or less than usual
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Not all women will experience all of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression. I had mistakenly thought that Postpartum Depression meant wanting to harm oneself or her baby–when in reality, that is often not the case. In fact, women feeling suicidal or wanting to harm their babies more than likely suffer from Postpartum Psychosis and should seek help immediately.

In the end, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression, and it is something my husband and I will have to keep a close eye on in coming weeks and months. At this time, I am not on medication and seem to be managing okay. My husband and I are doing what we can to try to combat it.  I am getting better at asking for help when I need it, something that doesn’t come easy for me. I am lucky in that my case of Postpartum Depression seems to be mild. And I hope it stays that way. If it gets worse, however, I know that I will need to seek further help. Ultimately, it is nothing to be ashamed of as it affects many women. And it is treatable. In retrospect, I am glad I broke down in front of my doctor rather than keeping it all bottled up inside. I wasn’t so quick to accept the diagnosis, but now that I have, I am able to move forward.  I am working through it and most of the time recognize that I am not such a bad mother after all.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. stacybuckeye
    May 13, 2011 @ 09:51:11

    Thank you for sharing this, Wendy. It sounds like you are being the best possible mother since you have asked for help. I never broke down, but I did have a very difficult time because Gage was very colicky (just recently diagnosed with GERD & on medication) and finally my husband hired someone to clean our house every other week and I only felt guilty about it the first time. Sometimes something has to give. I know I won’t need the extra help forever but it’s nice to hand somthing over to someone else when you need to. Family is good for that 🙂

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      May 19, 2011 @ 13:35:56

      Stacy – Thank you so much. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if Mouse was colicky. My hat’s off to you for getting through that experience. I am terrible about asking for help, but my parents and my husband reminded me that it isn’t a weakness to do so, and that people really do want to help.

      We are currently considering hiring someone to help with the housework, especially now that I’m back at work. It would be a huge load off of me not to have to worry about that, especially since I feel like my time is more limited with my daughter. Like you though, it’s not something that will last forever, just until she’s older and we’re in a better position.

      Reply

  2. Caspette
    May 13, 2011 @ 21:10:51

    This idea that we should suck it up and struggle on with out help is such a stupid concept. Through out history women always had family around to help. Its only modern times in western cultures this is breaking down. You have been so brave taking the first step of asking for help. Talking about it here helps with the healing process.

    I hope now you have moved that is one less stress for you.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

    • Literary Feline
      May 19, 2011 @ 13:42:53

      Caspette – I know exactly what you mean. I was raised to basically suck it up and carry on, and so I really struggled with whether to mention anything to my doctor. And then you have the stigma attached to something like postpartum depression–or depression in general. It makes it hard to talk about, much less admit. I decided though that it was something I needed to talk about. As you said, it helps with the healing process. And it isn’t anything to be ashamed about. Many women go through this. It’s a real problem and deserves attention so that women like me won’t be afraid to ask for help.

      Reply

  3. Rainbowg
    May 18, 2011 @ 18:56:58

    Thanks for blogging about this. The doctors and nurses always warn you to watch out for Postpartum depresssion, but you never think it will happen to you, or at least you hope it doesn’t. And when a new baby comes everything is so new and stressful, and you want to think you can do it all. I think reading about it really helps with awareness and helps those who might have it have the courage to do something about it. Thanks again.

    Reply

  4. Literary Feline
    May 19, 2011 @ 13:47:21

    Rainbowg – No, you never think it will happen to you. As you said, having a baby is stressful on its own. I really think it helps to talk about those stresses, postpartum depression or not. Just talking about them helps us realize how normal our feelings and experiences are. And that goes a long way towards
    breaking away at the feeling of isolation that can lead to depression, among other things.

    Reply

  5. Katy Wageman
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 18:41:56

    Hello,

    I wanted to get an advice .Recently I had a baby now 3 months .I have begun to get really sad because of lack of sleep and also Domestic problem .I cant really sleep at night unless i eat 4 her herbal sleeping med.I also have a 4 year old son who i cant handle(tantrum problem) I am begining to really hate this motherhood experiance.Could it be i have postpartum depression is there a natural way to cure it

    Reply

    • caspette
      Mar 01, 2012 @ 20:55:06

      Please see a health professional immediately if you suspect. I would not like to give any advice as we are not qualified in this area. Good luck.

      Reply

  6. Katy Wageman
    Mar 01, 2012 @ 18:41:56

    What’s the difference between regular depression and post-partum (besides obviously that PPD is after you have a baby)? I’ve suffered from depression since my early teens, never used medication as treatment, and never considered myself “cured” but consider the good times to be times when my depression is in “remission” kinda like cancer. Anyway, I just had a baby boy a little over a month ago, and I’m definately experiecing more than “the baby blues.” I already plan to talk to my doctor about this at my appointment next tuesday, but I want to know–how would I know (or the doctor know) whether it’s PostPartum Depression or my regular depression back? What’s the real difference?

    Thank you.

    Reply

    • caspette
      Mar 01, 2012 @ 20:40:53

      That is a very good question. I had a look on babycentre.com which is a very good resource and it states “Regular” depression and PPD, two forms of clinical depression, share a number of symptoms. But regular depression is unrelated to childbirth, while PPD occurs after the birth of a baby. PPD is usually diagnosed within a year after giving birth but can extend beyond that.

      The rest of the article does delve into this deeper with some more characteristics please read the full artile .

      If you suspect depression in any form please see your health professional immediately. I hope this helped a little bit.

      Reply

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