Postpartum Depression: A Look at What Mothers Need to Know
You’ve put in the hours of research, you’ve been eating all of the correct food, and you’ve planned properly with your husband. You’re ready to have your first child. You don’t have a history of depression or mental illness, but you’ve heard that some women suffer from depression after child birth.
You’re worried about the emotional and psychological changes your body will endure. You’ve heard about postpartum depression and you wonder if you’ll get it. More importantly, can you prevent it? If you do get postpartum depression, are you prepared to handle it?
In this article, we’ll take a look at postpartum depression, define it and identify who gets it. We’ll also take a look at some timely advice from trained physicians who offer advice on how to treat it. We’ll also hear the accounts of mothers who dealt with it and persevered.
What is Postpartum Depression?
WebMD.com describes postpartum depression (PPD) as a serious mental illness that occurs after childbirth. This form of depression can manifest in any type of woman. An American Family Physician article defines it as a form of depression that is severe and after childbirth.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Women affected by postpartum depression may experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of interest in life
- Loss of appetite
- No drive to do anything
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sadness and guilt
- Fluctuating weight
- Suicidal thoughts or possibly thinking something is wrong with your baby, when there isn’t.
The Difference Between PPD and Baby Blues
A short depression following birth is expected and usually last no more than two weeks. This period of time is called “Baby Blues” and it isn’t as severe as postpartum depression. A FitPregnancy.com article points out that 70-80% of new mothers experience the baby blues, while only 10-20% are affected by postpartum depression. Mothers can expect a form of depression following childbirth. During pregnancy — you have a life form inside of you — your body will have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone. After childbirth, these levels of drop radically which will most likely have some affect on your mood.
Becoming a Mother Changes Your Brain
Not only does a woman’s body change after birth, but also her brain. The many changes within a woman’s mind after birth create an increased care and concern for her child.
“After centuries of observing behavioral changes in new mothers, scientists are only recently beginning to definitively link the way a woman acts with what’s happening in her prefrontal cortex, midbrain, parietal lobes, and elsewhere. Gray matter becomes more concentrated. Activity increases in regions that control empathy, anxiety, and social interaction. On the most basic level, these changes, prompted by a flood of hormones during pregnancy and in the postpartum period, help attract a new mother to her baby. In other words, those maternal feelings of overwhelming love, fierce protectiveness, and constant worry begin with reactions in the brain.” — What Happens to a Woman’s Brain When She Becomes a Mother, The Atlantic
Husbands are also advised to play their part and monitor their partner’s mental state. Karen Kleiman, director of a postpartum depression center provided the following advice “If you think something is wrong, something is wrong. There’s a fine line between not feeling good and it being ok, and not feeling good and it not being ok.”
Which Women Are Most Likely Affected? Who Gets PPD?
Unfortunately, PPD is unpredictable, unless you have suffered depression in the past. The Everything Mother’s First Year Book, by Robin Elise Weiss, says “PPD can happen to anyone. You can get PPD with your first child or your fifth. The one thing that’s certain is, if you have experienced PPD with one child, you are more likely to experience it again with subsequent pregnancies.”
If your family has a history of mental illness or depression, this could contribute to an increased risk but this is not guaranteed. In addition, general stress, use of drugs, a distant or missing father and not being certain if you’re ready to become a mother can increase the probability.
Celebrity Moms Affected by Postpartum Depression
Mothers of every socio-economic background can experience PPD. Even wealthy celebrities have been affected by it. A Today’s Parent article noted 12 such celebrities including:
Gwyneth Paltrow — Admitted that she felt disconnected from her child and thought that she was a failure.
Celine Dione — She noted that she had a loss of appetite and noted the importance of having emotional support.
Angelina Jolie — Never officially said she experienced PPD but a source mentioned that they noticed emotional imbalance and mood swings.
Bryce Dallas Howard — Spoke about the danger of staying silent, not only for your own sake but so other mothers know they are not alone.
Alanis Morisette — Encourage anyone going through it to seek help as early as possible.
Brooke Shields — Wrote a memoir detailing how she had irrational thoughts like wanting to escape, get kidnapped, and wanting to swallow a bottle of pills.
Courtney Cox — Mentioned about 6 months after the birth of your child she couldn’t sleep, her heart was racing and got really depressed.
Amanda Peet — Discussed the shame mothers feel when they have mixed feelings about being a mom instead of feeling this sort of ‘bliss’ that people expect.
Mom’s Speak out about Postpartum Depression
In this Buzzfeed video, several mothers shared their experience with PPD, and how they persevered.
“I knew I had postpartum depression, from the first time I went to go pump my breast milk at work and I just broke down crying… I actually remember saying to my husband, people kept saying I’d be so emotional and I feel fine, and the reality of the situation was I was completely emotionally not… I believed that every parent around me knew what they were doing, and I was this devastating failure.”
Once the mothers realized that their emotional grieving was not normal, they took action by building a support team, one mother said:
“To all the mothers going through this, surround yourself with people who get it, because you’re not alone.”
Mothers shouldn’t feel shame or guilt. PPD effects your partner and family unit. 10% of new fathers experience it as well.
How to Cope With PPD
The Howdini video above is an interview with Dr. Keith Eddleman, author of Pregnancy for Dummies. He provides advice on how to deal with PPD.
“The majority of women who develop full-blown postpartum depression… generally will get over it. Sometimes, they need medication, but it is something that will go away, it’s not a lifelong thing… it’s usually less than four to six months, usually, it’s less than four to six weeks.” However, if the symptoms don’t go away or they get progressively worse, then you should contact your doctor immediately, the doctor noted some other signs that should prompt you to contact a physician “if you have thoughts about injuring yourself or your baby, you should definitely call your doctor.” Dr. Eddleman concluded the interview stating that the majority of women who experience PPD — they get through it!
6 Ways to Prevent Postpartum Depression
Although it is difficult to determine who will experience PPD, there are things mothers can do to assist in preventing it and fighting through it. Parents.com provided the following tips:
1. Communication - Speak with your doctor, friends and build a support system.
2. Try to Stay Calm - Newborns develop a better relationship with mothers who are calm.
3. Sleep with your Child - Mothers who are getting sufficient sleep are less likely to be depressed.
4. Exercise - A study in the article showed that mothers who exercised felt much better emotionally.
5. Your Mentality - You won’t be a perfect mother and be prepared to view your role as a new job.
6. Get Help - Speak to your husband and partner about your feelings.
Remember, you’re not alone. Follow the advice of your physician and build a support network of mothers and friends who you can confide in.
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