Top 3 Biggest Myths About Postpartum Depression
Let’s start with this–postpartum depression is real. If you’ve tried to conceive, undergone fertility treatments, experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or an infant loss, adopted, or successfully completed your pregnancy with a healthy childbirth, your mental health has certainly been impacted for better and for worse.
So let’s talk for just a moment about your overall mental health. Your mental health is made up of four basic things:
- What you think
- What you feel
- What you want
- What you need
Becoming a mom changes what and how you think, feel, want and need. You are coming to know yourself as a mom to this baby. You might be entering into a new marriage or relationship with your partner as a co-parent or a new identity as a single parent. Your needs for rest, alone time, touch, and companionship undergo significant changes. During all of this, your hormones have undergone a makeover, affecting your ability to bond, manage anxiety, and regulate your mood.
Do I Have Postpartum Depression or the Baby Blues?
With all of these changes to what we think, feel, want and need… Is it any wonder that 70-80% of women in the United States of America experience the baby blues? Of course not. Anyone would be a bit shaken in the midst of a hormonal rewrite and overhaul of your lifestyle.
Unlike postpartum depression (PPD), baby blues symptoms tend to be brief and are inspired by plummeting levels in estrogen and progesterone following birth. The difference between the baby blues vs PPD is that they set in just a few days following birth and resolve after about 2 weeks.
Are you wondering if you have the baby blues? Symptoms can look like this:
- Weepiness / Crying for no apparent reason
- Irritability / Mood swings
- Anxiety and overwhelm
- Insomnia (even when the baby is sleeping)
- Poor concentration
A Personal Story About The Baby Blues:
A few days after my son’s birth, I can recall that my husband and I were going to attend a motherhood support group for new parents. I had attended this group all through my pregnancy and had looked forward to returning after my son was born.
But moments before leaving, I realized it was cold outside… and I burst into tears! “I can’t be cold!” I sobbed to my husband, holding my son in my arms. Tears gushed down my face in uncontrollable overwhelm. And, approximately 3 minutes later, I was over it.
It was not my first mood swing and it was certainly not my last. It was also not my only experience with the baby blues. I felt anxious and fearful listening to my infant son snore as if he couldn’t breathe, which led to sleepless nights. I also had postpartum night sweats during the first week that led to even deeper feelings of fatigue. But in all, I felt more emotionally stable as each day passed and my hormones settled down.
The Whole Picture
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is different from the baby blues. Far too many mothers and professionals mistake PPD for the baby blues. This leaves many women and their families struggling without adequate support. So let’s cover the basics by breaking the top 3 myths surrounding PPD and covering basic symptoms.
Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
Myth #1: All Of Motherhood is Overwhelming.
It’s true that much of motherhood can be overwhelming. But I wanted to start with this statement because I meet far too many women who rely on this belief to ignore their postpartum depression. Motherhood is challenging, yes. But, if you feel ineffective, shameful, guilty, or like you aren’t bonding with your child…. That’s a different story.
Let’s get clear on the signs and symptoms of PPD. They are wider-ranging and last longer than the first 2 weeks following pregnancy. Your experiences might include:
- Depressed mood / severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changes to appetite
- Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Myth #2: It’s too late for me to have postpartum depression or anxiety
Can Postpartum depression start months after you’ve given birth?? Yes, it certainly can! For many women it can begin during the pregnancy. This article from Psychology Today states that half of postpartum depression cases arise during pregnancy.
Science and mental health have come a long way regarding pregnancy. Simply put, we know more now than ever before. So, the first part of breaking this myth is understanding that PPD can actually begin while you’re carrying your child. Pay close attention to how you feel during each trimester, especially if you are prone to or have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders.
How long does it take for PPD to show up? Current research suggests that postpartum depression length can show up within seven months after giving birth. Seven! Some professionals go so far as to suggest that women should be mindful of PPD for the first year following childbirth. I have to agree. I often see that it can take women time to catch on that what they are experiencing isn’t just the stress of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood – but an ongoing pattern of emotional and mental health.
Do I Need Medication For Postpartum Depression?
Myth #3: I’ll have to go on PPD medication.
False, false, false. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. It’s your body, your choice and you have a unique health history to consider. But let me also say – so what if you go on PPD medication?
What if prescription medication allowed you to show up as the best mom you can be? What if you only take medication for 6 months and then you never do it again because it allows you to learn, adjust and heal? What if, after talking with your doctor, you realized there are safe medications, even while breastfeeding? What if doing this was the difference between staying alive and keeping your child safe… or not.
These are big questions and not ones I can answer for you. Any and all decisions about medication should be made with a qualified doctor. And if you don’t feel like you are being listened to (whether you want to try medication or not), get a different provider. Don’t ever forget, you hired that doctor, you can fire that doctor if you don’t like the care you’re getting.
Know that there is a lot you can do without medication. Supplements, vitamins and amino acids can rebuild the nutritional deficiencies you acquired while that beautiful baby was growing in your body. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can teach you new skills and help you fit the right kind of self-care back into your life. A licensed counselor can teach you and help you advocate for your needs. And techniques like EMDR therapy can guide you in overcoming traumatic experiences involving your fertility, pregnancy, birth or loss.
New Mom Struggles: You Are Not Alone.
Wherever you are in your motherhood journey you deserve unconditional support. We are a village of mothers and caregivers, and we are stronger together. I learned so much from my own therapist during my postpartum journey. I am changed forever by what I learned during the few sessions we had together. I still rely on the things I learned back then because, simply put, they enhance my day-to-day life and make me a better mom and partner.
Be gentle with yourself. Whether this is your first baby or your fifth, every pregnancy and birth is different. Every round of IVF comes with new hopes and new fears. Pregnancy following a miscarraige can be more nuanced as you experience both grief and hope. Each time, the experience will call on you to show up differently and affect you in new ways. Motherhood is a journey and you will learn how to care for your new baby while taking care of your own body and heart.
Find A Postpartum Therapist Near You
I urge you to put some of that new mama bear energy into your own self-care. To become a great mother you must advocate for yourself. Research postpartum depression resources. Print out this blog. Better yet, sign up for the free PPD assessment and go through it with your partner, midwife, OB/GYN, primary care physician, or pediatrician so you can clearly communicate your experience.
When you’re ready, know that counseling can make a world of difference. Call us for a free 15-minute phone consultation and learn about our services. We’ll briefly explore the reasons you are seeking support so we can match you with just the right therapist. The clinical team providing therapy at Guided Wellness Counseling located in St. George, Utah can help you get back to the healthy, adventurous life you deserve.