Postpartum depression and anxiety and “baby blues” affects more new mothers than you probably think. According to the the American Pregnancy Association, upwards of 75% of new mothers have negative feelings and experiences during the postpartum phase. They are the result of significant hormonal shifts following childbirth and are quite normal, even though they may not feel that way. These “baby blues” usually subside within a couple weeks or so, and if they do not, they may manifest into symptoms of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a mental health condition that affects women after giving birth. This form of depression lingers in about 15% of new mothers, with symptoms occurring in the first week and throughout the first year of new motherhood. The symptoms grow and subside in intensity throughout the woman’s experience of postpartum depression and can look very differently for different women
Here are ten signs and symptoms of postpartum depression:
1. You lose interest in your hobbies, passions, and pastimes
While it may initially be due to being excessively tired and overwhelmed, an extended loss of interest in the things you once loved – from hiking to cooking to spending time with friends – is a sign of depression. The key is a loss of interest, rather than not having time or energy to engage in your interests. This might manifest as a sense of emptiness or feeling numb to or disconnected from life. Some mothers describe that they do not know, recognize, or understand who they are anymore following this transformational time.
2. Making Decisions is Difficult
Whether it’s apathy or over analyzing, trouble making decisions even about small things like “Should I eat lunch now?” is a sign of general overwhelm and the onset of depression. Perhaps this manifests as a lack of concentration or general “fog”.
3. You Worry Excessively About Being a Mom
You might doubt your own capabilities or have overwhelming feelings about this new role in your life. Moreso, you may have ongoing self dialogue like “I’m never going to be good at this” or “I can’t be as good at this as my friends” and you might even doubt your decision to have a baby. You may feel weak, hopeless, and defective.
4. You Live with Overwhelming Guilt
Perhaps you question whether you love your baby, haven’t felt bonded to him/her, or doubt that you’ll be able to provide in the ways you hoped. Women who wanted to breastfeed but stopped for reasons out of their control, or external pressure, might specifically have overwhelming guilt. You might even just feel guilty for not being happy as a new mom, especially knowing that others struggle with fertility or relationship problems.
5. You Feel Resentment
A sense of anger, irritation, and general annoyance might be linked to the sacrifices you made for your baby, physically, professionally, and personally. If you opted to stay home while your partner continues to work, you might also feel resentment toward their time with adults in the workplace. After a hard day with your new baby, you might even feel enraged.
6. Your Sleeping and Eating patterns are Entirely Off
Yes, having a newborn means sleep sacrifice. However, if you are unable to sleep even when you are tired and the baby is sleeping, you can’t fall asleep, or stay asleep, you may be dealing with depression. Excessive sleeping or not wanting to get out of bed is also a sign that something is off. Same goes for eating. Eating excessively to soothe emotions or not having an appetite for days, possibly due to emotionally-related stomach distress, are signs of depression.
7. You Excessively Cry
Ongoing, unexplained crying and sadness is a classic symptom of postpartum depression. While hormone changes can contribute to some of this tendency, ongoing teary days and “feeling down” might indicate that it’s time for intervention.
8. You Experience Mood Swings
Perhaps you are reacting strongly to your partner or experiencing increased sensitivity to situations you previously didn’t care much about. This could be something as simple as your partner being late and your intense reaction of anger, sadness, or confrontation. Note whether you are reacting in ways that seem out of the ordinary for you or the situation. Notice also whether your mood changes dramatically throughout the day.
9. You Feel Fatigued and Overwhelmed
You have a new baby. You might still be juggling work, and most likely a relationship. You may be breastfeeding around the clock, and sleeping very little. Chances are you are physically, emotionally, and psychologically depleted. If you feel consumed by the level of overwhelm and fatigue you are experiencing, or feel hopeless about the future, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.
10. You have Harmful Thoughts.
If you are thinking about leaving your family, that your baby would be better off without you, taking too many pills, or harming yourself or baby in any way, it’s time to get help. Call your doctor or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or Denver Metro’s Hotline at 1-844-493-TALK.
If you or someone you love experiences the symptoms outlined in this post, contact a trusted professional to begin the road to recovery. At Center for Shared Insight, we have therapists who specialize in postpartum recovery and therapy for new mothers. Contact us to schedule a free consultation to share more about your specific experience and learn how we can help.