Just Baby Blues, or Something More?

“Oh no,” you think. “The baby is crying again.”

And as the crying intensifies, so do your feelings of annoyance, frustration, and dare I say, resentment, towards what feels like the never-ending task of pacifying this tiny creature. The arrival of your new baby elicits many emotions. Of course, there is joy, hope, and excitement, but there are also darker emotions, like anxiety, depression, guilt, and even anger.  

All of these emotional experiences are considered normal. Even in the best moments, caring for a newborn is exhausting and easily overwhelming at times. And because your post childbirth hormones are strapped into the front seat of a roller coaster, intense mood swings can be normal too. Up to 50% of new moms will report experiencing some feelings of anxiety and depression, often called the “baby blues”. These symptoms will generally resolve within the first few weeks after delivery. But for some, these negative thoughts and feelings will intensify into full-blown Postpartum Depression Disorder (PPD).  

Postpartum depression and anxiety occur in up to 25% of new moms and can arise anytime within the first year. Onset is gradual and symptoms typically peak around three to six months post delivery. If left untreated, postpartum depression and anxiety can have substantial negative effects on both child and mom. Once diagnosed however, postpartum depression and anxiety can be easily treated with both pharmaceutical intervention and counseling. Early intervention is related to the most positive outcome for PPD treatment, so it is important to recognize the signs that you or someone you love is experiencing more than just the baby blues. Here are a few things to look for:

  • Low energy
  • Loss of pleasure in formerly enjoyable activities
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Intense feelings of failure
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making simple decisions

We all experience these symptoms once and awhile, but individuals with a depression disorder will experience these symptoms several days of the week for a minimum of two weeks.

For a new mom struggling with PPD, these symptoms might show up as difficulty sleeping, even when the baby sleeps. A new mom might feel overwhelmed at even the smallest task, like being reduced to tears at the thought of leaving the house. She might feel paralyzed by persistent worry about the baby’s health or fear that she is not caring for the baby properly. PPD can also show up as not experiencing any emotions at all, like finding herself numb to the cries of her newborn or feeling a lack of interest in baby or life in general. In some cases, depression can even lead to terrifying thoughts of harming oneself or her baby.

With all the activity that comes with a new baby, it is easy to forget to check in with yourself. Take some time to ask yourself how you are feeling. There is help out there. 

If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, contact your doctor. Either your obstetrician or primary care physician can help. There are also resources available at www.postpartumhealthalliance.org, including a 24-hour postpartum support line.

Brought to you by Northside Mental Health.

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