The baby you have anxiously awaited has just arrived. You should be on top of the world. So why are you so sad? It’s not clear, but you are not alone. As many as 80% of women have some mood difficulties after giving birth. They feel alone, disconnected, upset, scared or unloving toward their baby…and, of course, guilty for having these feelings.For the majority of women, the symptoms are mild to moderate and go away on their own. However, about 10-20% of new mothers experience a more debilitating mood disorder called postpartum depression. So how do you know if its just common baby blues or something more serious?
The “baby blues” are a temporary state of heightened emotions that effect about half of mew mothers. This usually peaks 3-5 days after giving birth and can last for about 2 weeks. Indications of baby blues include, crying easily, difficulty sleeping, irritability, sadness and edginess. Baby blues are not considered an illness, and do not get in the way of a woman’s ability to care for her baby. The tendency to develop postpartum blues is not connected to a previous mental illness and is not brought on by stress.
On the other hand, postpartum depression is a serious illness, and it requires the mother to get help. Postpartum depression occurs in about 10-20% of women who have recently given birth. It usually happens within a few months of delivery, but it can develop anytime in the first year. Risk factors include previous episodes of depression, severe stress, inadequate social support and previous premenstrual dysphoric disorder (a severe form of PMS).
Symptoms can include depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, difficulty sleeping, low energy, change in appetite, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, and impaired concentration. A diagnosis is made when these symptoms are present for a least a week. Unlike baby blues these symptoms do not resolve on their own, and they do interfere with the woman's ability to function.
If you experience postpartum depression, you may worry about the baby’s health and well-being. You may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the child (although women who have these thoughts rarely act on them). Postpartum depression impedes a woman’s ability to care for herself and her baby, and if left untreated can create a very dangerous situation for both mother and child.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has postpartum depression call do not wait until the situation gets worse. Call your obstetrician or contact Rebekah Shackney, LCSW at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or concerns regarding postpartum depression.