Welcoming a new baby into the family is a wonderful time for families. But it can also be stressful. No matter if it’s your first child or if you’re veteran parents, birth can bring unexpected stress and challenges. Even if labor and delivery goes exactly as planned (and when does that ever happen!), you may find that you feel differently than you expected.
It's very common for mothers to experience mood changes near the time of birth. Sometimes, they experience more persistent and intense emotional disruptions. It can be upsetting to feel fearful and sad in a time you expected to feel excited. How do you know if the mood changes you are going through are normal or something more serious?
Here are some important things to know about postpartum depression and anxiety:
What Are Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety?
Mood changes near birth are experienced by 85% of women, while 15% experience lasting, severe symptoms categorized as postpartum depression (PPD) or postpartum anxiety (PPA). In these conditions, depressive and anxious thoughts will often focus on the baby. PPD and PPA sometimes occur together, or mothers may have one or the other. The timing of onset can occur soon after a baby’s birth, before the baby is born, or much later, when the baby is up to one year old.
PPD, PPA, or “Baby Blues”?
The symptoms of baby blues and PPD or PPA are similar and important to distinguish. “Baby blues” refers to a common sadness and mood change that lasts for a few days or a week. Baby blues is temporary and will go away on its own. PPD and PPA will generally not get better unless treated. Your doctor will provide a diagnosis and course of treatment.
When the symptoms last longer than two weeks, are severe, or interfere with daily functioning, it may be PPD or PPA.
Symptoms of PPD include:
- Deep and persistent sadness
- Excessive crying
- Withdrawing from others
- Changes in eating or sleeping
- Inability to bond with your baby
- Intrusive thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Symptoms of PPA include:
- Feelings of excessive worry or dread
- Racing thoughts
- Disrupted sleep from fearful thoughts
- Difficulty feeling calm or relaxed
- Consumed with thoughts about your baby’s health or safety
Only a doctor can officially make a diagnosis. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to a doctor.
Risk Factors and Treatment
There are a lot of risk factors that contribute to developing PPD or PPA, including genetics, hormonal shifts, and life stressors. There is nothing a mother has done to cause PPD or PPA. If you have a personal or family history of depression, you are at a higher risk of developing PPD. It is important to get regular mental health screenings during pregnancy and after birth and talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.
When you get professional help, a doctor will assess your symptoms and provide a diagnosis. Treatment options include medications and therapy. In addition to professional help, self-care is essential to aid in recovery. Poor sleep is both a symptom and can also amplify the conditions. Getting enough sleep, relying on your support system, eating well, and exercising can help you to feel better during the recovery process.
What to Do About PPD & PPA?
If you think you may have PPD or PPA, here are some steps to take:
- Make an appointment with a doctor.
- Reach out. These conditions are common, and there are a lot of other parents experiencing the things you are. You can receive support.
- The Postpartum Support International organization offers online resources for moms and for dads. Their helpline for additional information is: 1-800-944-4773. You can also text for English: 503-894-9453 and Spanish: 971-420-0294
If you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, immediately call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-8255 or text HELLO to 741741.
It is common for family members to notice the symptoms first. If you think someone you know may have PPD or PPA, here are steps to take:
- Talk to them gently. Express your love and concern and what you have noticed.
- Help them to seek help. Encourage them to talk with a healthcare professional and find additional resources.
- Offer emotional support. Ask them how they are doing and listen.
- Assist with daily tasks. Help care for the baby or provide other assistance.
Hope After PPD & PPA
With proper professional treatment, PPD and PPA sufferers and their families can find relief and comfort. It may take some time to feel fully back to yourself, but with support and resources you can get help and begin to feel better.
Baby Merlin wants to support parents’ health throughout a baby’s life stages. Taking steps for effective sleep, including helping your baby sleep better, can help support the recovery process alongside critical professional help. The Magic Sleepsuit provides help with swaddle transition to allow your baby to sleep more soundly in a time in which sleep is often disrupted.