Post Partum Depression or Baby Blues?
It is time to let the guard down and be as real and honest as possible. This might be one of the most personal blog posts I will ever write. Since I am providing services for new and expectant moms as well as stay-at-home moms, I wanted to address the issue of postpartum depression and “baby blues”.
During the nine months of your pregnancy hormones are at their peak which is normal because they are necessary to sustain a healthy pregnancy and delivery. However, once the birth is over, they drop immediately. We all know that hormones and emotions are deeply connected so it is no wonder that nearly 80% of women will experience this emotional roller coaster known as the “baby blues”.
If we add on top of a hormonal drop, sleep deprivation as well as a massive life transition of becoming a new mom or adding a new baby to the family, it is perfectly understandable to feel lost, confused, worried, and anxious as you are adjusting to the new role. No one gives you a guide how to be a “good” parent. Is there even such a thing? No one tells you that these new feelings that you may experience are normal, very common and that they will pass. There is still the guilt and shame around “baby blues” topic that makes us mothers feel incompetent to say the least. It is normal however to wonder if your feelings are normal because I am pretty sure you didn’t expect to be this tired, nervous, anxious, worried about every single decision regarding your baby.
If we talk about “baby blues” the good news is that the symptoms described above (there are more than this) tend to go away in 2-3 weeks after giving birth.
Post-partum depression is more serious and around 20% of women are affected by this condition.
When I gave birth to my first son, I really thought I had “baby blues” and that it was all normal. It is only after reading some articles about emotional challenges of new moms and how to cope with certain feelings that I kind of thought I might have something other than the blues. I never went to the doctor for an assessment or was prescribed any pills but I decided to read as much as I can about post-partum and to do an online counselling. It felt for me safer, more secure. I think that part of me didn’t think it was so serious and yet I had a lot of symptoms. I was in denial and just waited for time to pass by. The basic difference between post-partum depression and baby blues is the frequency of these feeling you are having, their length and how much they prevent you from functioning clearly on a daily basis. All books about post-partum depression talk about timing. If your symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks it is no longer considered to be baby blues.
Here are some of the symptoms for post-partum depression. As with everything related to emotions, there is a spectrum from highest to lowest number on the scale. You also don’t need to have all the symptoms. However, if you recognize yourself in the ones below and you feel they have been present for a longer time, it is better to seek help.
Here we go:
- Sense of being overwhelmed with the new role
- Feeling incompetent as a mother
- Unable to function properly
- Loss or increase of appetite
- Worried about your child
- Want to harm your child
- Sleeping problems
- Skin and digestion problems
- Crying crying crying
- Can’t connect to your baby emotionally
- Doing things by mechanism without any joy or pleasure
- Can’t enjoy and don’t want to be left alone with the baby
- Withdraw from activities that used to give you pleasure
- Having doubts about motherhood and if this is really for you
- Intense rage, aggressive behavior
- Having anxious thoughts about the health of your baby
- Feeling that your life is gone as you know it, feeling lost
- Don’t know how to cope with the new set up at home with your baby
- Feeling that a previous life as you knew it has ended
Personally, I never had symptoms such as hurting my child but yes I was crying a lot, I felt incompetent, guilty, and ashamed why I couldn’t connect with my child. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening because in my head I always wanted a baby. I was like a robot, functioning without any emotions, very aggressive, nervous and refused to talk about this. It was my way of saying: “I am fine, this is normal and you have no clue so we have nothing to talk about”. I decided to do an online counseling and discovered that like many of us I had also preconceptions about motherhood. In my head, It was supposed to be a bliss, cheerful time, the best time of my life. I thought I would feel nothing but love for the baby that I would connect easily and that nothing would be difficult. That is why for the first 6 months I decided to do things on my own and prove to myself that I am a good mother, that I can handle this by myself. I refused any help, I was stuck with this idea that if I ask for help it would mean that I am a failure, incompetent person and I couldn’t allow it. After months of sleep deprivation and just feeling like my body and mind were totally disconnected, I reached out for help. It was a huge moment for me to admit that I don’t have to do it all alone and that it is OK to be vulnerable and ask for help. My therapist encouraged me to talk more about my feelings to those close to me which I did. It is interesting that when I opened up to some of my friends, they all understood that something was off but couldn’t quite tell what. I had a guard and didn’t allow them to ask anything.
With my experience, I would encourage everyone who suspects of having something more than baby blues to talk to your doctor, friend, partner because even just talking about it can make you feel better. I did an online counselling but if you have a good coach, therapist in your area I suggest highly to spend some time talking about these new feelings you might be having. It is so important not to get stuck with your own thoughts and feel guilty or ashamed because of them. There is no shame in reaching out for help. In case of post-partum depression, it can be healed but if left untreated, it can turn into chronic depression which is more difficult to treat.
Where am I now?
Fast forward to 2016, I was pregnant again and it was as I suspected a whole different experience. Of course I was more prepared the second time around for the arrival of the baby but also with the previous experience I decided way before the delivery to organize my life that way so I would never go back to that dark place again. All I can say is that I am finally enjoying motherhood and have been since day one!