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 and with a healthy childbirth, your mental health has certainly been impacted. Perhaps you’ve even experienced postpartum struggles yourself. Your mental health is made up of four basic things: what you think, feel, want, and need. Becoming a mom changes exactly that. 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 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?
So, is it any wonder that 70-80% of women in the United States of America experience the Baby Blues, right? 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. 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 few days after my son’s birth, I can recall that my husband and I were going to attend a motherhood group for new parents. I had attended this group all through my pregnancy and was glad to have their support. 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. This was not my only experience with these baby blues. I felt anxious listening to my infant son snore, which led to sleepless nights. I also had postpartum night sweats (yes, those are a real thing) that led to deeper feelings of fatigue. But in all, I felt more emotionally stable as each day passed and my hormones settled down.
Postpartum Depression: The Whole Picture
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is different from the baby blues and is still surrounded by many misunderstandings. 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. Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression Myth #1: Motherhood is challenging, and all new mamas take time to adjust. I actually agree with the above statement. But I wanted to start with it anyway because I meet far too many women who rely on this statement 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 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
My postpartum experience with my second child was different. I didn’t have the baby
blues I experienced with my son. Instead, several months after having my daughter, I
noticed I was consistently more irritable with everyone in my life. I was short-tempered. I
heard myself raising my voice and overcome with anger. Then, there was a morning
when I couldn’t find my car keys, and I felt overwhelmed with the urge to throw
something, anything, across the room in an effort to release my sudden rage. This
happened more than once (sometimes, totally unprovoked by an upsetting event), and I
knew something wasn’t quite right.
Do I Have Postpartum Depression Now?
Myth #2: I’m three months postpartum, so it’s too late for me to have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.
Can Postpartum depression start late? Yes, it certainly can! Sometimes it can begin
even during pregnancy. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense with the name, but 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.
Additional findings hint postpartum depression length can set in 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.
Following my hot, rage-filled I-want-to-throw-something moment, I had a sit down with
my husband. I apologized for my irritability and asked him for honest feedback. He told
me he’d seen the exact same change in me: short-tempered, irritable, critical of others. I
asked him, “How long have you noticed this?” And he told me… “Every day.” It hurt to
hear, but it also affirmed that I wasn’t making this up. I wasn’t myself. I was 6 months
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,
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
Know that there is a lot you can do without medication. Supplements, vitamins and
amino acids can rebuild any deficiencies you acquired while that beautiful baby was
growing in your body. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can teach you new skills to fit the
right kind of self-care back into your life and help you advocate for your needs. And
techniques like EMDR therapy can guide you to overcome 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, 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 here to see if therapy at
Guided Wellness Counseling, which is located in St. George, Utah, can help you get
back to the healthy, adventurous life you deserve.