In the past few weeks, the subject of postpartum depression (PPD) has come up organically in conversations with my girlfriends. Many new moms feel like others would look down on them for having PPD. My blog is not a place of judgement. Moms experience PPD, and it’s OK. Ladies, we are hard enough on ourselves! Mommy guilt is pervasive. I would like this blog to help the mom sitting at home with her new baby (or 11 month old) or pregnant with a baby right now (yes, PPD can show up before the baby arrives!) feeling like something is just not right. You are not alone.
Caveat: The purpose of this blogpost is not to educate the general community about PPD. There are plenty of websites to learn more about PPD. Also, I am not a medical professional; this blog does not replace reaching out to your physician or a licensed mental health practitioner.
The purpose of this blog is to open the discussion about postpartum depression. I have not personally experienced PPD, but I have experienced some things on the periphery and seen moms suffer needlessly.
What you should know about Postpartum Depression:
After delivery, or even while you are pregnant, you can take a survey to see if you are at risk for PPD.
The Edinburgh scale is a scientifically reliable and validated tool to assess your risk of PPD. It’s very easy to fill out and score yourself. I assessed myself while pregnant with my twins because having multiples put me at high risk for PPD.
Moms of multiples are at higher risk for PPD.
Double the love, double the risk… thank you twin babies! Honestly, it makes sense. Multiples means you are creating a whole heck of a lot of hormones, and caring for two infants at once is challenging. I’m surprised PPD isn’t just a given when having more than one baby at a time!
Oftentimes, the first person to notice something is wrong is the dad, but they don’t say anything.
Husbands/partners/fathers, whatever you want to call them… they see the difference. Dad’s will often stay quiet because they already see their wives on the edge and fear mentioning something will just push their wife over the edge, they’ll get hospitalized for being crazy/depressed, and the father will be stuck alone with a tiny baby. Instead, dads will stay quiet and just hope things get better. While I was still pregnant, I talked to my husband about signs to look out for regarding PPD. I wanted him to know he shouldn’t be afraid to speak up if he noticed I was experiencing more than baby blues after 2 weeks postpartum. Baby blues are normal, but intense mood swings, severe anxiety, and an inability to connect with the baby is not. He agreed to talk to me if he noticed major shifts in my mood.
New moms are at risk for PPD for an entire year after giving birth.
When I celebrated my daughters’ first birthdays, I also celebrated making it through the first year without PPD. We’re not in the clear until a full year after having our babies.
PPD impacts child development.
Take a look at The Still Face Experiment by Dr. Edward Tronick, Director of Child Development at Harvard University. Watching this made me feel very uncomfortable because I wanted to comfort the baby myself! But this is a great example of how not responding to a baby’s needs makes an impact.
If not addressed, PPD may have lasting effects on your child. PPD is real and deserves your attention.
Since I am not a PPD expert, I reached out to a Licensed Medical Social Worker. I also asked a mom who experienced PPD about her personal journey.
From a Licensed Medical Social Worker:
“I think (for new moms especially) there is a MASSIVE expectation to LOVE your baby above all else and in place of yourself and all of your needs and I think people tend to think that they are mutually exclusive. If I love my baby then I won’t have post-partum. If I have post-partum, people are going to think I don’t love (or care for) my baby. (Think of the news media coverage of PPD- they often involve a psychotic mother harming her children.)
Also, there is really an “I don’t have time to have PPD” mentality. You are so busy and overwhelmed with new baby you barely have time to do anything let alone the “luxury” of mental health. Most people STILL think therapists/ psychiatrists are for crazy people.”
From a mom who experienced PPD:
“Before experiencing PPD, I believed it was a very real thing… I have always had problems with my hormones affecting my mood… I was always nervous before I had kids that I would be one of those moms who drowned their kids because of PPD. My daughter is alive and well, with no chance of me doing her any harm!”
When did you first notice a change which made you think something was really wrong? In other words, what was the first clue you were experiencing PPD?
“I remember going to Target one day by myself and thinking “I could just drive away and not go home.” And I knew this wasn’t what I wanted, but the thought was there. This was honestly my first clue I wasn’t thinking correctly. And I was worried and brought it up to my husband the same night. I think it scared him, but I told him the fact I recognized this wasn’t the right thing to be thinking was a good sign I knew something was wrong and could control it.”
What was your PPD experience?
“I dreaded being alone [with my baby], but I had to be. I felt like SUCH a failure. I really just felt like I couldn’t cope. Constantly. And I was constantly worried about something. My lactation consultant was the one who convinced me meds might not be a bad idea. I took Zoloft and felt a TON better after just a few weeks. I think getting out of the house and going to a support group helped a great deal, too!”
What was helpful?
“Getting out of the house and going to the breastfeeding support group was SO helpful!! Knowing there were other moms experiencing breastfeeding issues was a great comfort to me. Seeing other moms was inspirational. If they could do it, then certainly I could too.”
If you could go back in time and talk to yourself then, what would you say?
“I would tell myself “You are doing a great job! You have survived so much in such a short amount of time! This will pass, and your daughter is going to be a happy healthy one year old in far too short a time. Try to enjoy the moments with her, and cherish these times.” (I’m crying from typing this…)”
What would you like to tell other moms?
“Don’t be ashamed of PPD. It is not a short coming. It is a natural thing that happens to many women. Having a baby changes so much in your life, and at the same time, hormones are raging in your body. It takes time to adjust to this huge change, and sometimes, you need a little help to normalize your body chemistry. Do what you feel is right – whether it is working with a special diet, exercise program, or medication. The choices you make as a mother will always take your child’s best interest to heart, but you have to take care of yourself, too. Don’t feel selfish for taking care of yourself, because without a happy, well-loved (even if it’s love from yourself) mom, how can you have a happy well-loved baby?”