Postpartum depression can happen to any new mom, without warning or risk factors, but this common condition is treatable. Most women can overcome postpartum depression quickly with personalized treatment, but the social stigma surrounding postpartum depression keeps many women from speaking up about it.
However, postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of and is always worth talking about with a care provider. For all women, preparing for and healing from postpartum depression begins with a solid understanding of this condition.
Breaking the Silence Surrounding Postpartum Depression
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. Sadness after childbirth can be hard to accept for many women, but postpartum depression isn’t something to be ashamed of.
The hurtful stigma around postpartum depression perpetuates that postpartum depression somehow relates to how much a new mother loves her baby, but this is untrue. A new mom can still be excited about being a mother and also feel sad. It’s normal, it’s okay and, most importantly, postpartum depression is treatable.
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
For some women, it might be challenging to determine if they are experiencing tearful baby blues or whether they have postpartum depression.
Baby blues is the term for feelings of tiredness, worry and sadness after childbirth. Baby blues are temporary and usually resolve within a few days. Postpartum depression symptoms are more intense and longer-lasting than baby blues. Postpartum depression may require professional help to heal from.
With either condition, if symptoms disrupt a woman’s ability to care for herself or her baby, she should seek help.
Onset of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can happen up to 12 months after delivery, but most women experience it within the first four weeks and months postpartum.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Whereas the emotional roller coaster of post-delivery can bring mixed feelings, postpartum depression and anxiety usually involve more serious and long-lasting symptoms, including:
- Extreme worry and anxiety
- Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of sadness that aren’t going away
- Lack of motivation to care for self and baby
- Thoughts of harming oneself or the baby
- Thoughts of suicide
- Unreasonable or racing thoughts
Since most women with postpartum depression will experience symptoms by the time of their six-week postpartum check-up with their OB/GYN, it’s important to speak up about symptoms.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression occurs for a variety of reasons and the causes of postpartum depression may be different for every woman. Some of the most common causes include:
- Extreme changes in hormone levels after delivery
- Not Feeling well physically
- Reduction of estrogen and progesterone after delivery
- Sleep deprivation
- The stress of caregiving demands
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
Any new mother can experience postpartum depression, but some factors can increase a woman’s risk of this condition, including:
- A history of depression
- A History of postpartum depression
- Feeding struggles with a new baby
- Having a baby who needs treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit
- Past depression during pregnancy, or peripartum depression
Additionally, some women experience postpartum anxiety without depression. Some women don’t necessarily feel sad, but have difficulty turning off worrisome thoughts, which can disrupt their sleeping, eating and overall well-being.
Whether a woman has postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, she can benefit from professional help.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression requires a personalized approach that depends on factors like a woman’s:
- Number of symptoms
- Severity of symptoms
- Comfort level with medicine
- Comfort level with therapy
A common myth about postpartum depression is that all women need medication to treat it. Many treatments for postpartum depression exist, not just medication therapy. Depending on a woman’s unique needs, she may benefit from:
- Conversations with a trusted OB/GYN
- Lifestyle coaching
- Medication therapy
- Talk therapy with a licensed mental health professional
Each person’s treatment needs vary. Some women may help with modifying their lifestyle and recruiting their home support system to do so. Other women prefer therapy, while some are comfortable with medicine.
To get the best treatment, a new mother should be open and honest with her care provider. Safe and effective treatments for postpartum depression exist, and an experienced OB/GYN can work with new moms to find options that meet their needs.
Asking for Help
If you’re pregnant or are planning to conceive soon, know that it’s healthy and normal to talk openly about postpartum depression. There’s no shame in asking for help. The more open you are with your care provider, the better they can help you.
Obstetric care providers, midwives and gynecologists are familiar with screening for and treating postpartum depression, so don’t hesitate to talk to your provider about postpartum depression — before, during and after pregnancy.
Compassionate Postpartum Support for You
Motherhood is challenging, especially as you learn how to fit into your new role as a mom and balance the needs of your family. Your medical team is here to talk with you and figure out the best ways to help, even if it’s as simple as helping you practice self-care.
It’s common for new moms to lose sight of what’s important for their own health needs and keep themselves on the priority list. Your team at your AdventHealth location can help you prioritize restorative time for you, which can go a long way to boost your body, mind and spirit. You can also be connected to local support groups with other mothers who understand what you are going through.
AdventHealth offers comprehensive OB/GYN care from compassionate men and women who can help you overcome postpartum depression and feel whole again. To get started, learn about in your area.