One of the best analogies you may ever encounter for the reality of new motherhood is this…Imagine you have just landed a new job. It’s one that you’ve only ever dreamed of having and that you’ve worked hard for years to achieve. But on your first day you learn that the hours are next to impossible and leave little time for anything else, including sleep. Within the first few weeks, you find yourself so exhausted that you fear ever getting a positive commendation is way out of reach.
If you’re a new mom and this is how you feel, you are not alone. However, for some moms the reality of motherhood isn’t just overwhelming, it’s downright debilitating. In this roughly 10 percent of women, the all-encompassing responsibility of caring for a new child paired with the changes in hormones that occur after birth lead to what is known as postpartum depression.
Don’t just downplay it as if this is the way that all new moms feel. Yes, being tired is normal with a new baby. However, having feelings of sadness or hopelessness is not. If you are concerned you or someone you know is dealing with postpartum depression, these are some of the telltale signs of postpartum depression. Seek support from a qualified medical professional to explore your options and get the help that you need.
1. “Baby Blues” that Don’t Go Away
Many new moms experiencing a bit of a dip in mood during the first 2 weeks after delivery. This is typically considered a result of the change in hormones that mothers experience as they undergo the process of pregnancy, delivery, and post-natal recovery. However, these “baby blues” should not be lingering. Most women feel better after those first few weeks. If you don’t or if you notice that your feelings of anxiety or sadness worsen, there is likely more to it than just the blues.
2. Feelings of Sadness or Guilt Consume You
Again, as a new mom you will experience fluctuations in your mood. You may cry or get upset, and all of those feelings are normal and valid. However, if you have spells of crying during which you are inconsolable, often feel unhappy that you are a mother, or are hard or down on yourself as a new mom, these may be some of the first signs that you are struggling with postpartum depression.
3. Disinterest in Things You Once Enjoyed
Depression takes a significant toll on the level of pleasure you get out of life. If you or your partner begins noticing that your interests seemed to have changed, it may be a sign that depression is at fault. For example, you may notice you no longer find your favorite movie funny or that you are uninterested in showing affection to your partner. Even changes in food preferences or disinterest in eating altogether can be key indicators that you may need to see a doctor or therapist for help.
4. Inability to Make Decisions
Many new moms find themselves so tired in the first few weeks that it seems difficult to think straight. However, if you find yourself unable or unwilling to make decisions, it may be a warning sign of postpartum depression. Women who struggle with the condition after giving birth often describe not being able to decide whether to get out of bed or show or even when to change the child’s diaper or take her for a walk.
5. Fear of Not Being a Good Enough Mom
If a mom claims she has never worried she’s not doing a good enough mom, then she’s probably lying. This is also particularly common for women who have babies who are sick, premature, or have special needs. But if that is not your case and yet you still find yourself having constant doubts about your ability to mother your baby, it could be one of the signs of postpartum depression.
6. Erratic Sleeping Patterns
Of course your sleeping is erratic…You have a newborn in your house now. But if you find yourself unable to rest even when your child is napping or that you are sleeping all the time, it probably is more than just a change in your sleep pattern.
7. Experiencing other Big, Stressful Life Changes
Stressful life events can deepen your sadness and serve as triggers for postpartum depression. If you’ve been experiencing other big, stress-inducing life changes in addition to welcoming a new baby to your life, then you may be more prone to depression. For example, if you and your significant other have been fighting, or your family is unsupportive of your new child, or someone you loved recently died, it may contribute to the onset of the signs of postpartum depression.
8. Having Thoughts about Harming Yourself or Your Baby
In some cases, women even have thoughts of suicide or hurting themselves and/or their babies. These are rare but advanced signs of postpartum depression and may even be attributed to postpartum psychosis, a serious mental illness that can occur in combination with depression. If you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, you need to call your doctor or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 immediately.
Women have a tendency to suffer with signs of postpartum depression in silence. They feel that sharing their experience will be met with skepticism or worse criticism. But the reality is that postpartum depression is a very real condition that requires a doctor’s care.
If left untreated, depression can progress into more pervasive mental health issues and can plague a time in a mother’s life that should be met with joy and happiness with sadness and anxiety. Working with a trustworthy doctor to identify your signs of postpartum depression and create a plan of action is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
And remember, you are never alone when you are dealing with this issue. Lots of mothers struggle with depression. It’s recognizing the signs of postpartum depression and getting the help that you need that really matters.