Updated: Apr 10, 2021
A common misconception about giving birth is that it will be the "most joyful moment of your life", and for many this is true. What most people do not share is that not only is the moment your child is born filled with a multiplex of emotions, but even if that moment is filled with immense joy the moments after and onward may be filled with anxiety, exhaustion and even depression.
As many as 80% of mothers experience what is commonly known as ‘the baby blues’ (formally known as postnatal depression). The baby blues can come with feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue and/or mood swings. These feelings occur a few days after birth and tend to last no more than a week or two following the birth of your child. Of course, these symptoms are also characteristic of postpartum depression and what sets the two apart is the intensity of the feelings as well as the length of time they are experienced.
Postpartum depression (PDD) is not something you can just “shake off” a few weeks after you give birth and often we are not sure the severity of what is happening to us because we assume it's the ‘baby blues’ and will pass. Many women going through PDD find it difficult to engage with and bond with their newborn along with continued feelings of anxiety, sadness, fatigue, mood swings and sometimes feeling helpless and in some cases suicidal. PPD is a complex mix of physical, emotional and behavioural changes which gets to a point where it becomes difficult to not only care for newborn but also for yourself.
Physical changes contributing to PDD include a dramatic drop in hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) after giving birth, this hormone change may result in an imbalance causing your depression. Emotional changes may also contribute to PDD. Giving birth is a major life change that may be overwhelming for many different reasons. Being sleep deprived, anxious as well as facing the emotional effects of major changes in your life and body may all take a toll on you. It is important to understand that these feelings are normal after any major life changes, even one that you wanted to only be joyous.
PPD may look different in different women and has even been recorded in some men. With each person having their own different experiences it means that each person may also have their own treatment methods. Pay attention to your symptoms and ensure you communicate these feelings with your partner or support system and your doctor, even if this may be difficult.
There are three key ways to treat your PPD: self care, therapy and medication
Self care may mean various things to you but the key ones to pay attention to on your journey to healing are getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and getting light exercise. If you feel healthy physically you may see changes mentally.
Therapy is an important option especially if you feel like you cannot get through your healing process alone. There is no shame in getting help and therapy practices such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you reprogram the negative triggers between you and your baby, assisting in helping you find less negativity in this new journey.
As depression oftentimes is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, medication is an option for more severe cases. Your doctor and therapist may be able to prescribe you an antidepressant or antianxiety medication that is safe for you and your baby if you are still breastfeeding.
It is important to remember that you are not alone with what you are feeling. Speak to a doctor, your partner, your loved ones, or find a support group of women who are in the same boat as you. You would be surprised that the healing that comes from knowing you are not alone. Your symptoms are not your fault and the moment you begin your healing you will be able to be the best you for your baby as well as yourself.
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