It’s common. It’s treatable. It can happen to any woman.
But don’t be scared. Be honest and prepared.
It’s time to talk about postpartum depression and break through the stigmas and misconceptions that keep many women suffering in silence.
As did Grammy award-winning artist Cardi-B recently for the first time. She accounted that her postpartum depression following the birth of her daughter “came out of nowhere,” which is a common symptom. She learned first-hand that postpartum depression does not discriminate.
This condition, which affects about one in every ten women who give birth, can come on quickly but can be overcome with an engaged care team and personalized treatment plan. Here are some insights to hopefully provide healing for any women who may experience postpartum depression.
Breaking the Silence
When moments of greatest joy are met with conflicting feelings of sadness or anxiety, it can be a challenging and even confusing time for new mothers. Admission that you’re feeling “sad” is hard for many women, for fear of both intrinsic and public shame. But this is far from the reality.
Women tend to downplay their symptoms of sadness because they want to be happy, making it difficult to admit and seek help. It also can feel like a reflection of their love for their new little ones, which is such a crippling misconception.
Another common myth about postpartum depression is that all women need medication to treat it.
Although medication might be appropriate for some cases, others can find hope and relief through open conversations and lifestyle changes. It's always encouraged to engage with your doctor about what works best for you.
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
For some women, it might be challenging to determine if they are experiencing some tearful “baby blues” or if it’s something more that they should be concerned about.
Whereas the common emotional roller coaster post-delivery can bring tears after a heart-warming commercial or at the first baby milestone, postpartum depression and/or anxiety can bring more serious symptoms, including:
- Feelings of isolation
- Extreme worry and anxiety
- Feelings of sadness that aren’t going away
- Unreasonable or racing thoughts
- Lack of motivation to care for self and baby
A good benchmark would be whether the emotions are impacting your ability to care for yourself or your baby. If the answer is yes, it might be time to seek help.
Onset of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can happen up to 12 months after delivery, but 90 percent of women experience it within the first four months postpartum with the majority feeling the onset in the first four weeks. This is still within the postpartum check-ups with your physician so engaging in conversation at that six-week mark can help clear up questions.
Postpartum depression occurs for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common causes are extreme changes in hormone levels in a woman’s body after delivery, as well as lifestyle changes that are inherent to new parenthood such as sleep deprivation and stressors brought by increased caregiver demands.
Causes vary from the hormonal roller coaster after delivery as well as the physical changes that pregnancy and birth can have on the body. Through the healing process, it's common to feel a sense of loss.
Some physicians liken it to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as rates of postpartum depression tend to increase during the seasons with less daylight.
Risks for Postpartum Depression
Although any woman who's recently given birth can experience postpartum depression, there are certain risk factors that can indicate a predilection for the condition.
One of those is having struggled with depression at any time in life, or during pregnancy, which is called peripartum depression. Those with feeding struggles or developmental issues can impact the mother's emotional state.
Another important distinction is that some women experience postpartum anxiety without depression. This manifests through incessant thoughts that interrupt sleeping and impact other aspects of life. These can be opportunities to reach out for help as well.
Treatments for Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression requires a personalized approach, depending completely on the woman, her environment and symptoms.
It could be a listening ear, additional structure for the household, emotional support or even effective medicinal treatment. Whatever the treatment, it's imperative to be open with your doctor throughout the pregnancy as well as after. As your emotions change and evolve, open communication with your physician can help proactively identify risks for postpartum depression.
Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. Through our personalized treatment plan and collaborative care team, you'll be better equipped to care for your little one and yourself. Learn more about our women's care here.