What Is Postpartum Depression?It can seem that postpartum depression doesn't make sense. How can something that's supposed to be the height of the human experience cause someone to feel so low?
Depression is becoming something we talk more about in our society. As the reality of the silent struggle finds the light, more people are healing.
We are also learning depression comes in many forms. Postpartum depression still has an echo of being a taboo topic, but it's finding its own light in recent years as people like mom influencers and celebrities talk more about it. It's giving confidence to mothers who experience it to speak up about our needs.
Still, it can seem that postpartum depression doesn't make sense. How can something that's supposed to be the height of the human experience (pregnancy, childbirth, and after) cause someone to feel so low? Let's dive into more details to answer some frequently asked questions and create a deeper understanding of what postpartum depression is.
What is Postpartum Depression?
After giving birth, a woman's biological and emotional state has changed dramatically. Mothers are also potentially going through financial, societal, and familial changes, all of which can open the doors for mental health issues such as depression (and even anxiety).
Many moms experience some form of what is called “baby blues.” These feelings typically go away and do not become severe. This is normal given the biological changes that occur after giving birth and as a mother transitions into the postnatal phase.
Suppose these feelings become overwhelming and seem to have no reason for their onset. In that case, a mother may be experiencing something more severe - postpartum depression.
What Does Postpartum Depression Feel Like?
Postpartum depression comes in many forms. Of the following list, a woman can experience any combo in any degree.
- Sad or melancholic disposition that may include crying for “no reason.”
- Feeling disconnected from one’s baby.
- Troublesome thoughts regarding being a “bad” mother or of hurting one’s baby.
- Death or suicidal ideation.
- Mental distress wherein it’s difficult to think, concentrate, or make decisions.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Appetite changes.
- Losing interest in usual activities and hobbies.
When Does Postpartum Depression Start & End?
If you or someone you know experience any of the symptoms mentioned above during pregnancy or within the first four weeks after giving birth, a diagnosis of postpartum depression can be rendered. There is no exact test to diagnose this state of being officially, but that does not mean it isn’t real simply because we do not currently have the ability to measure it. The psychiatry field is continually evolving to include and update various conditions.
What Can I Do To Help My Postpartum Depression?
When you or a mother first experiences any of the aforementioned symptoms, one of the typical first reactions is to feel some semblance of “I’m not strong enough”. Feelings of shame and guilt often follow depression. Unfortunately, this means you or someone you know may be dealing with these feelings in isolation. These feelings of depression should not be dismissed. Taking preventative and corrective measures means stopping things from getting worse or interfering severely with daily life.
There are many ways to help overcome postpartum depression:
- Therapy: for some mothers, talking about what they're experiencing to a medical professional can provide relief and direction.
- Medication: for other mothers, talk therapy is not enough. Using medicine can counter adverse biological changes.
- Lifestyle Adjustments: when medication is not an option, especially if you are breastfeeding, lifestyle changes can be just as helpful. Consider a change in diet, exercise, and/or environment to improve the state of depression.
- Support: because of the shame mothers feel, they do not often share what they're going through. Thus, the people around them are not able to offer support. Sharing how you feel with others may be the support you need. If you do not feel safe to do so, professional therapy or self-help are alternative options.
- Other Self-help: Join a virtual or physical group that focuses on helping mothers cope with their postpartum depression.
Someone I Know That May Be Experiencing Postpartum Depression, What Can I Do?
If you're reading this because you think that someone in your life may be experiencing postpartum depression, I commend you for doing diligence to help them feel like their full stuff again. Here are four things you can do to show your support:
- Recognize the Signs: because postpartum depression can be confused with Baby Blues, it's important to read an article like this to understand the signs so you know what to look for.
- Ask Questions: a mother may already feel guilt and shame for having these feelings. So, it is best first to ask if they are experiencing depression before assuming anything.
- Encouragement: after asking, encourage them to seek professional help and offer to assist with seeking these arrangements.
- Listen and Support: whether the mother in your life seeks help or not, show your support by listening. Listening can help to alleviate the mental and emotional pressures of depression. It is always best to follow up with supportive action steps such as assisting in whatever way the mother may be feeling stressed.
When we understand what something is, we have less fear, bias, and judgment projected onto it. More importantly, less pressure is placed on the people who experience it.
Not every mom's experience is the same. We all grew up differently, and our genetic makeup also factors into postpartum reality. Moms go through a lot, and depression can be one of those things. We can overcome many obstacles as moms, and postpartum depression is absolutely one of the things! Stay with us. We’ll be back in a few days with more ways you or someone you know can feel better if they’re experiencing postpartum depression.
Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Nadia Rumbolt
Nadia Rumbolt is a mom of many trades, including creative writing, blogging, van life, minimalism, veganism, the beach, nature, and the occult.