Everyone has heard of postpartum depression.
BUT WHAT DO YOU REALLY KNOW ABOUT IT?
Do you know that there are other postpartum mood disorders besides depression that can affect new moms?
Do you know that it can take months or even years for some of these symptoms to develop?
More importantly, do you know that it is never too late to seek treatment for a maternal mental health issue?
And if you didn't know the answer to any of these questions, then why not? Why are we not talking about all of these important issues?
A majority of postpartum women will experience the "baby blues." There are so many hormonal changes following labor and delivery. New moms are often struggling to establish breastfeeding, recovering from labor, and dealing with the most severe sleep deprivation they have ever experienced. So it's completely understandable that most new mothers experience the "baby blues" - the term used to describe the period of moodiness, uncontrolled crying, and other emotional highs and lows that usually occur during the first two weeks postpartum.
But for 1 in 7 women, the "baby blues" will not pass in a few weeks and, instead, these feelings will set in. The mood swings, crying, irritability, and more will become more severe and will not go away. Postpartum depression symptoms include:
- Feeling overwhelmed with motherhood or guilty that you are not doing a good job
- Feeling irritated, angry, or even resentful towards your partner or baby
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or sometimes even numb
- Having trouble concentrating
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Inability to sleep, even when baby is sleeping
For an even more comprehensive list, check out this article from Postpartum Progress.
BUT THERE IS MORE THAN JUST POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION.
There are multiple postpartum mood disorders that new mothers can develop. These include: postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum rage, and postpartum psychosis.
It is important that postpartum moms know that they can experience more than just depression and that they are familiar with the symptoms of these other mood disorders.
Postpartum anxiety and OCD symptoms include: inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, constant worry, and sometimes even disturbing or intrusive thoughts. (Postpartum Anxiety and OCD)
What about postpartum rage? Have you heard about this one?
It is so common, yet so many mothers do not talk about it. Postpartum rage can include feelings of irritability, sudden and uncontrollable angry outbursts, or feelings of anger at yourself, your partner, or your baby. (Postpartum Rage) You may not be feeling any other signs of depression or anxiety, yet still be dealing with uncontrolled anger.
If you are experiencing any of these things - depression, anxiety, rage - you do not have to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Know that many mothers are affected by these feelings and that you are not alone.
DID YOU KNOW THAT FOR MANY WOMEN, THEY MAY NOT EVEN BEGIN TO DEVELOP THESE SYMPTOMS UNTIL 6 MONTHS, 12 MONTHS, OR EVEN LONGER AFTER HAVING A BABY?
That's right. The window for postpartum mood disorders does not close on some set date. Women can develop any of these symptoms within the first 12 months after having a baby. For some women, postpartum depression or another postpartum mental health disorder can affect them when they wean - this could be 12 months, 18 months, or even longer after delivering.
And what if your "baby" is not really a baby anymore. What if your child is 2 or 3 or even older. Is it possible that you could still be experiencing symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder? Yes, absolutely.
One clinical social worker uses the term "maternal distress," to describe these lingering symptoms that can plague moms for years after having a baby. While the onset of these symptoms are often traced back to an earlier time, for many women it can take years to reach out and get help for postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety or any other postpartum mood disorder.
PLEASE, PLEASE KNOW THAT IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO REACH OUT AND SEEK TREATMENT, EVEN IF YOUR CHILD IS OLDER.
The topic of postpartum mood disorders is not so black and white. It can involve many different symptoms. It can affect moms at many different times during their parenting journey.
But one thing that is true no matter what you may be feeling: it is treatable.
If you feel like you are suffering from a postpartum mood disorder, please reach out to someone. A close friend or family member. Maybe your labor or postpartum doula. Call your OB and let them know. Or if you don't know where to turn, there are great online resources like Postpartum Progress or Postpartum Support International that can direct you to local resources.
There is help out there. It can feel scary to take that first step, but YOU are worth it.