Is what I’m feeling normal, or is it postpartum depression?
About 80 percent of moms feel some degree of the “baby blues” after giving birth, where they feel more weepy, anxious or moody. This is normal, due mostly to changing hormone levels, and can last a few days or a few weeks. But for some moms, the blues don’t seem to go away and may even get worse.
Signs of Postpartum Depression (PPD):
- Irritability, anger and hypersensitivity
- Trouble sleeping or excessive fatigue
- Lack of interest in your usual activities
- Feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness or helplessness
- Changes in appetite
- Body pain, like headaches, stomachaches or muscle aches
Some moms also feel symptoms of anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, either instead of or along with feelings of depression. In rare cases, moms develop postpartum psychosis, which is a serious condition that needs immediate treatment. If you’re experiencing hallucinations, agitation, anger, insomnia, or a desire to harm yourself or the baby, get help right away.
The cause of PPD and related disorders is likely a mix of biochemical, genetic and psychological factors. If you suffered from depression or anxiety during pregnancy, you’re more likely to suffer from PPD.
Is it the “baby blues” or PPD?
Usually, the baby blues happen quickly after birth, are relatively minor, and resolve themselves within a few weeks. If you’re still feeling depressed beyond that time, or start out fine but then suddenly feel depressed a month or two after birth, it may be PPD.
How to Cope
The treatment for PPD depends on its severity. If you’re concerned you might have it, ask your doctor or midwife for suggestions. Treatment often involves medication, counseling or both. If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your provider about the use of antidepressants while nursing.
Here are some other steps you can take to improve your mood:
- Get outside for fresh air and exercise.
- Reach out to friends and family — avoid isolating yourself.
- Share your feelings with a sympathetic listener, or join a support group.
- Relax your expectations of yourself and your baby.
- Take time to care for yourself and your appearance.
- Rest as much as you can and don’t try to take on too much at once.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from friends or family, whether they offer it or not!
One of the most helpful ways to get through PPD is to talk about it in a supportive environment. Swedish First Hill offers a free drop-in group called Understanding the Moods of Motherhood. They meet Mondays (except holidays) from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at The Lytle Center for Pregnancy & Newborns. Call 206-386-3321 to learn more or register.
You can also call Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773. Coordinators offer encouragement and information, and can help you find resources nearby.
Mother to Mother is a free phone support service for moms who are having a tough time emotionally. They can call 877-644-7001 and talk with trained phone volunteers who have had similar experiences.