Not just “the baby blues”
When you hear those words, what do you think of? Maybe you think of Brooke Shields and how she came out with her story of developing postpartum depression (I will call it PPD from here on out) and how Tom Cruise then criticized her for taking medication to help treat it.
But, maybe your mind goes blank when the topic comes up. If so, you’re in good company. I would dare say that most people do not know what PPD is and would not be able to tell you the difference between fairly normal “baby blues” and PPD. But, I would also dare say that many of you know a woman who has struggled with PPD, even if you were not aware of it, because it is currently said that 10% of women who have just had a baby develop it. This is a very personal issue for me as I was diagnosed with it after I gave birth to Elijah. I now try to talk very freely about it to encourage others to learn more about it, to talk about it openly (as there is often a shame element felt by those who develop PPD, which tends to make women keep quiet about it), and to learn how to love those who struggle with it. I will simply be giving a basic overview of what PPD is in this post, but then will give you a few websites where you can learn more.
Sometimes when I tell others that I have experienced PPD, they tell me that they too felt a bit sad and cried often after giving birth. I realize that the sadness and crying in the postpartum can be difficult, but those symptoms are considered “baby blues” rather than PPD. Many women feel symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, sadness and crying, irritability, and/or trouble sleeping (source) in the postpartum period. These symptoms are due to hormonal changes as well as the other changes that come with having a new baby. However, they usually only last from days to a few weeks and do not interfere with the ability to function or cope within everyday life.
On the other hand, postpartum depression symptoms can include: loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, overwhelming fatigue, severe mood swings, intense irritability and/or anger, lack of joy in life, feelings of guilt/shame/inadequacy, withdrawing from others, difficulty bonding with your baby, intense fear that something bad will happen to your baby, and thoughts of harming yourself or the baby. (source) As opposed to the baby blues, these symptoms can last (if the PPD is untreated) up to a year and will interfere with your ability to cope with and function in everyday life. Another interesting thing I recently was told was that PPD can develop up to even one year after giving birth (and can develop before the typical 6-week postpartum check-up, the appointment during which they tend to screen for PPD). PPD is thought to be due to a combination of factors such as hormonal and other bodily changes after your baby is born, stressful lifestyle factors (exhaustion, lack of social support, struggles with breastfeeding, etc.), and emotional factors (such as worrying about your ability as a mother or feeling a loss of identity). However, there are other non-pregnancy related risk factors for developing PPD such as having a history of depression, having had PPD before, experiencing stressful events during the year prior to pregnancy, and if the pregnancy was unwanted or unplanned, to name a few.
A note to any readers who are currently pregnant: PPD is something to be aware of, but learning more about the topic should not induce fear. Instead, we simply need to become more fully educated on PPD due to the percentage of women who will develop it. Plus, did you know that men can also develop what is known as “paternal postnatal depression” (PPND)? Neither did I, but it has just recently been brought to my attention. In the next few posts, you will hear from a friend of mine who developed PPD, about my own experience with it, and from a local counselor who mainly works with men who are experiencing PPND. I think each post will bring some really valuable insight into the topic of postpartum depression.
Want to learn more about PPD? Here are a few articles that were the main sources I used when writing this post – they expand beyond what I have shared:
PubMed Health article (PubMed is a service of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM)
Just as I’ve shared in previous posts about how to come alongside women who are pregnant as well as those who have just had their babies, I also plan to write a post about how to best come alongside a woman (and her family) who has been diagnosed with PPD. This post will follow the personal stories that you will get to read in the coming week and will conclude the PPD portion of this ongoing pregnancy series. Thanks in advance to the guest bloggers who are sharing in the upcoming days – this is a very personal issue and I admire their courage in opening up about such an intimate part of their lives with us …