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Postpartum Depression

1 in 7

of you will suffer from postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD. It can be nasty stuff and should not go untreated.

By now, you’ve probably experienced the “baby blues,” which is the intense moodiness, overwhelm and weepiness that occurs in the first week or so after you give birth. It’s common — about 80% of new moms go through it.

Perinatal mood disorders are different. They may feel like baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting.

The Stats, Please

  • 15% of postpartum women develop PPD (1 in 7!)
  • 10% OF DADS (yes, that’s right, men!) develop symptoms of PPD
  • 1-2 per 1,000 women develop postpartum psychosis. (I have over 420K subscribers, which means – statistically – that several hundred of you will experience this and it is SERIOUS business!)

A woman experiencing postpartum psychosis may be in danger of taking her own life or that of her child. Symptoms include paranoia, hallucinations (hearing voices urging a new mother to kill herself or her child), severe insomnia, total loss of appetite, and major anxiety and depression. This condition is considered a psychiatric emergency and demands an aggressive, immediate response. Please click here to get local help where you live. Help is waiting for you. Please don’t delay!

Now that you’re 6 weeks PP, I need to ask: how are you doing?

Some of you are feeling Super Duper! Jolly Good. Elated. Tired, yes, but happy. Some of you may be struggling and still others may be somewhere in the middle.

Maybe you’ve experienced depressive episodes in the past (ahem) and maybe you haven’t, so let’s talk specifics. MIND YOU: This isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. Some women experience some symptoms and not others.

[During my research, I stumbled across an excellent site for PPD support called Postpartum Progress. The following is re-printed directly from this article. (Thanks, Katherine!!)]

You may have postpartum depression if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • You feel overwhelmed. Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.” You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother. In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would. You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.
  • You don’t feel bonded to your baby. You’re not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines.
  • You can’t understand why this is happening. You are very confused and scared.
  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel out-of-control rage.
  • You feel nothing. Emptiness and numbness. You are just going through the motions.
  • You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there’s no real reason to be crying.
  • You feel hopeless, like this situation will never ever get better. You feel weak and defective. You feel like a failure.
  • You can’t bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.
  • You can’t sleep when the baby sleeps, nor can you sleep at any other time. Or maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep no matter how tired you are. Or maybe all you can do is sleep and you can’t seem to stay awake to get the most basic things done. Whichever it is, your sleeping is completely screwed up and it’s not just because you have a newborn.
  • You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make a decision. You feel like you’re in a fog.
  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there’s an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • Maybe you’re doing everything right. You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You’re thinking, “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
  • You might be having thoughts of running away and leaving your family behind. Or you’ve thought of driving off the road, or taking too many pills, or finding some other way to end this misery.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.
  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby.
  • You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time. Am I doing this right? Will my husband come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with the baby that I’m missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you it doesn’t help.
  • You may be having disturbing thoughts. Thoughts that you’ve never had before. Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were. They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away. These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”
  • You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of the thoughts. You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm, like kitchen knives or stairs, and you avoid them like the plague.
  • You have to check things constantly. Did I lock the door? Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the oven? Is the baby breathing?
  • You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea. You might even have panic attacks.
  • You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless. On edge.
  • You can’t eat. You have no appetite.
  • You can’t sleep. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.
  • You feel a sense of dread all the time, like something terrible is going to happen.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you’ve lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

Now that you’ve gone through these lists are you thinking, “How the heck does this lady know me? Is there a hidden camera in here?” Nope. What this should tell you is that you are NOT alone and you are NOT a freak and you are NOT highly unusual. If you are having these feelings and symptoms then it is possible you are experiencing common illnesses that 15 to 20% of new mothers have, and they are completely treatable. Just reach out for help (by state and country).

If you are having the symptoms listed above, call your doctor. There is no need to suffer. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable with professional help.

Remember: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are not crazy, nuts, or psycho.

Also… yes, breast is best (and all that), but it’s waaaay more important that mommy is playing with a full deck of cards. If you need to stop bf’ing because it’s exacerbating your symptoms, it’s absolutely OK and NOT a big deal. Our entire generation was raised on formula, and we’re FINE. (Read also: Letting Go of the Guilt About not Breastfeeding.) That said, if you want to continue bf’ing, great! And if you need to go on antidepressants or anxiety meds WHILE bf’ing, that’s alright too. Many meds are safe to take while breastfeeding. Talk to your OB or a psychiatrist that specializes in perinatal mental health to figure out which meds may be best for you.

Note, there is a difference between PPD and D-MER. According to D-MER.org:

“Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterized by an abrupt dysphoria or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.

[It’s] defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mood, such as sadness, depressed mood, anxiety, irritability, or restlessness.”

Some mighty good resources for your perusal:

Related Articles:

Postpartum Psychosis (warning: some of these stories do not end well and are incredibly sad…)

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