Bringing a new life into the world comes with a range of powerful emotions, from excitement to anxiety. For some people, it can also cause a form of depression. May is Women’s Health Month, Mental Health Month and National Maternal Depression Month, which makes it an excellent time to talk about postpartum depression and steps you can take to manage this condition.
Many new mothers and even some brand-new fathers can become severely depressed after the birth of a baby. However, women who go through challenging or unplanned pregnancies or who have a history of mood disorders may be more susceptible to experiencing postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
With all the physical and hormonal changes that accompany delivering a child, many new moms undergo mood swings, emotional outbursts and trouble sleeping. These “baby blues” typically start two to three days after giving birth, and may persist for up to two weeks.
Postpartum depression is an acute, long-lasting mental health condition. Signs and symptoms may include:
- Lack of connection with your baby or other family members
- Panic attacks
- Changes in mood, including irritability or anger
- Fears of becoming a bad parent
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Neglecting personal hygiene
- Apathy, lethargy or hopelessness
- Frequent thoughts of self-harm or hurting your baby
- Attempting to ease your pain with unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drug abuse
When Is It Time to Get Help?
Untreated postpartum depression symptoms may become increasingly worse. Some women begin believing their loved ones would be better off without them, and sadly, suicide and accidental overdoses are leading causes of maternal death. If you are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK.
It’s time to reach out to your doctor or therapist if you are experiencing any of the above persistent symptoms and they begin to prevent you from caring for yourself or your baby, or if you are thinking about self-harm or harming your child. Health professionals can prescribe antidepressants or recommend all-natural strategies for managing depression without medication. For instance, evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy might help you recognize negative thought patterns and replace them with affirming ones.
Overcoming the Stigma of Postpartum Depression
You may be surprised when you find it difficult to immediately bond with your child – especially if you were eagerly anticipating welcoming a new baby. However, it’s essential to remember that postpartum depression doesn’t mean you are an unfit parent. Many people are reluctant to talk about their struggles with postpartum depression because they feel guilty or ashamed that they didn’t feel the same joy and love they hear other parents talk about. In many cases, being honest about your experiences will help make your emotional burden feel lighter.
If you feel comfortable opening up to people about your challenges with postpartum depression and what motivated you to seek help, you might inspire others to do the same, thus helping end the stigma surrounding this mental health condition.
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Becoming a parent is a significant responsibility, and can feel overwhelming at times. Segue Recovery Support is a highly structured sober living environment that allows women and men to safely transition between a residential drug and alcohol rehab program and the “real world.” While substance abuse disorders are isolating, you are not alone in your recovery journey. Contact us today to learn more about what we provide.