You have just had a baby and you expect to be flooded with joy and bliss, savoring this new little baby of yours. However, after the birth of your baby, you have a huge influx of hormones and adjustments both your body and emotions are adjusting to. As a result, this can cause your mood to fluctuate up and down and make you wonder if what you’re experiencing is normal or if it is, in fact, perinatal depression.
The “baby blues” is a term coined because it is so common for mothers to experience weepiness, exhaustion, overwhelm, and anxiety after the birth of your baby. These symptoms often begin within the first few days after delivery. Then, the symptoms peak within a week. Ultimately, they taper off within the first two weeks postpartum.
Unlike the baby blues, depression during the postpartum phase is a more serious concern. Despite this, it is not always easy to distinguish between the two. Have you noticed any of the following?:
that you are withdrawing from your partner
not feeling like you’re bonding with your baby
feeling your anxiety is so extreme you can’t sleep even when your baby does
feeling so guilty or overwhelmed that you start thinking about death or suicide
If you have been experiencing any of the above, it is a sign of perinatal depression and it’s time to get help.
Perinatal depression is a newer term to replace what was previously referred to as “postpartum depression”. As such, it encompasses depression symptoms that can emerge anytime between the pregnancy phase and postpartum phase after your baby is born.
Women who have experienced depression prior to having their baby are more at risk of developing perinatal depression. Additionally, if a woman has had depression with a prior child, it is common to experience it again with the birth of a subsequent child. If you have family members who have dealt with mood disorders, this can also be a risk factor in developing depression yourself. Finally, other risk factors include lack of emotional support, being in an abusive relationship, or financial uncertainty.
Perinatal depression typically begins within four weeks of giving birth. For some, they see symptoms emerge up to two years after birth. In these first two years after having a child, you experience a host of demands. Your body is affected physically, emotionally, biochemically, and environmentally. Because of this, symptoms of depression can creep in as a result.
In essence, depression during the postpartum phase is “regular” depression just during this period after the birth of your child. Perinatal depression and “regular” depression share the same symptoms below. Depression involves a person having at least five of the symptoms below for at least a two-week period:
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Greatly reduced interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities
- Significant weight loss or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
- Reduced or excessive sleeping
- Feeling agitated or excessively slow in your movements
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Worthlessness or excessive, inappropriate guilt
- Reduced ability to think and concentrate or indecisiveness nearly everyday
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Initially, some may look at this list and say, what mother with a newborn isn’t having problems sleeping? Or, what new mom isn’t having a drastic change in appetite or weight, fatigue, and inability to think?! Many of these above symptoms can be experienced by new mothers due to having an infant who needs their whole attention. As a result, this can rob new mothers of their normal sleep and daily routine. However, it is the severity of these symptoms that differentiates between the “normal” postpartum phase and depression.
WHY PERINATAL DEPRESSION IS SERIOUS
When struggling with depression, it is common to see women feeling that these symptoms define her. Consequently, her sadness and fatigue may become so overwhelming that she is not able to function. She may feel overwhelming guilt at experiencing these symptoms at a time where others expect her to be full of euphoria over her new baby. She may question herself and wonder, “What is wrong with me?” or “Why am I not happy like I should be?”. Yes, perinatal depression and “regular” depression share the same symptoms. However, the fact that perinatal depression occurs at a pinnacle moment in a woman’s life, when she is experiencing what many call the greatest gift—her new baby—this can increase the tremendous struggle of depression.
Wellspring Women’s Counseling believes women deserve help when struggling with any form of depression. Make an appointment for a free 30-minute consultation today to find out how online counseling can help you find hope in this tough time.