Having a new baby is an emotional time. Many new parents, however, find that instead of just the ups and downs of a few rough days, their emotional difficulties stretch on for weeks or months. For about one in seven new mums (postpartum depression also occurs in new dads, but the numbers are somewhat less clear) they find depression, anxiety, and intrusive thoughts becoming more and more difficult in their daily lives.
Only a medical provider can diagnose postpartum depression, and the condition will not go away on its own, but it is very treatable once help is sought. Therapy and safe medications can help to ease the symptoms and allow parents to have an easier time. It is also important to note that there are significant consequences for children whose parents have untreated depression; while many parents avoid PPD treatment, feeling like they need to take care of their children and can’t afford the time to focus on themselves, this is absolutely a situation where the parent must prioritise themselves for the overall health of their children.
PPD or just the ‘baby blues’?
New parents generally are overtired, overwhelmed, and can feel unsupported in their community, especially if they live far from family. They may also feel like their old friends have deserted them or don’t understand their new life as parents, and may not yet have made solid connections with other new parents.
All of these feelings are perfectly normal, and this can make it difficult to tell where these negative feelings move from normal to cause for concern. Many women dismiss their ongoing anxiety and depression as what everyone goes through, not bad enough to really worry about.
The signs of postpartum depression
Some common signs of PPD or postpartum depression include:
- Changes in sleep pattern besides those that the baby is causing. You can’t sleep when the baby sleeps, or you can fall asleep, but you wake up with your heart racing as if from a nightmare every time, and can’t go back to sleep
- You find yourself obsessing over details and what-if scenarios. You can’t redirect your thoughts from these ideas without serious effort
- You are terrified to leave your baby alone, even in safe situations (asleep in their childproof crib, or with a trusted relative, for example). You rearrange your life to avoid these situations
- You have an ongoing sense of dread, even in happy situations. You may be able to enjoy happy things when they happen, but once they’re over, the dread creeps back in. You may feel incredibly guilty about being unable to stay happy
- You may feel muted in all situations, like your emotions just aren’t as BIG as they used to be – neither happy nor sad.
This is just a short list of the types of symptoms that could be caused by PPD. It’s also important to note that you don’t need to have all of these symptoms to be diagnosed; just one or two can be enough, depending on their severity.
How PPD Is Treated
There are some general lifestyle changes that are known to help with anxiety and depression, like getting more exercise, practicing mindfulness, or improving diet. These alone should help to alleviate the ‘baby blues’, but alone they cannot treat post-partum depression, so if you have already tried these things and are still suffering with PPD symptoms, make sure to tell your doctor and ask for the help you need.
Worryingly, some women struggle to get help from their medical provider; you may hear that “everyone feels this way,” or “it will pass.” This is an outdated attitude, and you should absolutely speak to another doctor if you hear this. You deserve to feel better, so that you can enjoy these early days with your child, which will affect the rest of your life and theirs.
Your midwife or public health nurse are often a good first contacts, as they may be more experienced with treating PPD than a GP. From there they will likely recommend you see a psychologist who is experienced with post-partum depression (like us here at Psychological Health Care).
Don’t delay in seeking treatment
If you feel you or a family member is suffering with postpartum depression and you don’t want to wait to get help or go through your GP or public health nurse, you can always book an appointment directly with us today – just get in touch!