The Other Side of Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Postpartum depression and anxiety are mood disorders that occur after a woman experiences childbirth. Anyone can experience postpartum depression or anxiety – it does not discriminate based on age or ethnicity. It is a hard disorder to pinpoint because there are several other variables in which people may think are the cause of the sudden change of mood, such as exhaustion and sleep deprivation, lifestyle change, possible issues with breastfeeding, and physical recovery.
That said, around 15% of all women will experience some sort of postpartum depression and/or anxiety shortly after they give birth. Many times the symptoms will be presented within two weeks, but they can sometimes show up later in postpartum – even up to a year afterwards. Some women even experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety symptoms after they stop breastfeeding because of the rapid change in hormones.
In addition to the several different factors that cause postpartum depression and anxiety, many women may feel ashamed to talk about their symptoms. In a society where motherhood is so celebrated through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest, many new (or new again) moms may feel as though they are doing something wrong by acknowledging their true feelings. Some women may push the symptoms aside, claiming exhaustion and lifestyle changes or thinking that it will get better as soon as the baby sleeps/gets older/stops teething. But postpartum depression and/or anxiety goes beyond just run-of-the-mill mood swings. Mothers with this disorder can experience a variety of symptoms but they all have one thing in common – the feelings are more intense, they often do not go away, and they limit one’s ability to carry on with their daily life.
Symptoms: Postpartum Depression
When people hear the term “depression” they often think that someone is just sad. However, depression can manifest itself in many ways, and the spectrum of symptoms for postpartum depression is no different. With a wide variety of symptoms it is often hard for a new mother to realize she is experiencing something more than just the “baby blues.” Some women will chalk these harsh feelings up to exhaustion and stress, and oftentimes these factors can perpetuate the depression symptoms even further.
In addition to feeling sad and overwhelmed, many mothers experience other symptoms – both physical and emotional. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some of those symptoms may be:
- Oversleeping or insomnia
- Extreme anger or rage
- Physical aches and pains, including headaches, stomach pains, and muscle pains
- Eating too much or too little
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Having trouble forming an emotional attachment with their baby
- Thinking about harming oneself or the baby
Symptoms: Postpartum Anxiety
In addition to postpartum depression, some women experience postpartum anxiety. Sometimes postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety can go hand-in-hand with new mothers experiencing symptoms from both categories. Many times postpartum anxiety manifests itself in obsessive and compulsive acts or thoughts. Again, many women may attribute these feelings to the stress and exhaustion of having a new baby. But like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety can come any time in the first year after giving birth and/or when one stops breastfeeding.
According to Postpartum Progress, postpartum anxiety symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Racing thoughts and an unquiet mind
- Feeling as though you must be doing something at all times – not being able to relax
- Having thoughts about things potentially harming the baby
- Checking things constantly, or doing an action repeatedly a certain number of times
- Physical symptoms such as nausea, headaches, and stomach issues
- Panic attacks
You’re Not Alone
Millions of mothers across the world experience postpartum depression and/or anxiety every day. Many of those mothers feel as if they are the only mother to ever feel this way, therefore making her feel guilty, angry, and resentful. But that couldn’t be further from the truth – if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, you are not alone. Here are some stories of other mothers who have gone through the scary stages of new (or new again) motherhood, and have come out on the other side:
There are two main types of treatment for postpartum depression and/or anxiety: medication and counseling/therapy. Your doctor, specifically your OB-GYN, is the best source of information on how to manage your disorder. Many doctors will recommend a combination of both medication and therapy as the best course of action. As always, we recommend you speak to your doctor if you believe you may have postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
To look for a doctor in your area that specializes in postpartum disorders or for postpartum support groups, click here.
For more information regarding all things postpartum depression and anxiety related, including the six stages of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, click here.
Social media often paints a distorted picture of motherhood – one that is hard to live up to whether you have postpartum depression or not. This pedestal image can make mothers think that the way they are feeling is wrong and shameful. Many women will not disclose their true feelings for fear of being ridiculed, judged, or that their baby will be taken from them. But speaking out about postpartum mood disorders can help break the stigma and let other moms know that they are not alone – postpartum depression and anxiety are real, and there is help out there for everyone.
Tags: baby, combination therapy, health, medication, mental health, Mental Health Awareness Month, mental wellness, National Institute of Mental Health, new mother, newborn, newborn baby, postpartum, postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, postpartum issues, Postpartum Progress, postpartum recovery, postpartum treatment, Therapy, treatment options, wellness
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Lauren is a full-time mom of three girls, who also happens to run her own in-home preschool. She loves to write, run, yoga-it-out, and keep fit. She’s kind of crunchy in her homeschooling, cloth diapering, and natural products sort of way, but she also loves Starbucks and trashy tv. For more about her internal judgments of herself and hilarious quips about motherhood, follow her on IG and Twitter @thescoopmama, fb.com/thescoopmama, as well as her website theSCOOPmama.