Postpartum Depression

Parenthood teaches you many things. For instance, this morning my son taught me that one can reach a certain level of exhaustion at which she will wear a shirt covered in baby vomit to her hair appointment. Then, he taught me that when babies with wet hands grab a hand full of said expensively coifed hair, it does indeed lose its curl. As the saying goes, “Yay, memories!” All joking aside, the post partum period is hard ladies– and not just on your freshly-done blowout.

 

Pregnancy and the first year postpartum are without question two of the most vulnerable times of a woman’s life. We are different physically, emotionally, and spiritually in ways that are difficult to explain to our family and friends. In fact, it is one of the few times in our lives (except perhaps puberty) when our worlds are rocked to their very foundations by such far-reaching changes. This is compounded by the fact that we are responsible for a new life at a time when we may still be experiencing pain and discomfort associated with the pregnancy or delivery. Experts report that symptoms of anxiety or depression occur in 10-20 percent of new mothers. Unfortunately, these symptoms may go largely untreated because of shame or self-blaming. Though women with a personal or family history of depression or abuse are most at risk, postpartum depression is a physical response to the cascade of biochemical and hormonal changes that take place in every pregnant woman’s body. Lack of support and other social and emotional factors can complicate the picture further. Even women who have no history of anxiety or depression can develop sadness and anxiety that is more than just the baby blues. These feelings are treatable with therapy and/or medication, and you can get help. You can speak to your OBGYN, psychiatrist, or therapist about how to get started. Here are a few tips in the meantime.

 

1)      Examine your Mothering Myths: There is an idea out there (or perhaps just an ideal) that all new mothers immediately greet their infant bundles of joy with fresh-faced glee and joy. Mothers who are ambivalent or scared about their new responsibilities often feel inadequate, different, or ashamed. Women can be pressured to express disinterest in things they used to value like work, social activities, or alone time. In truth, many women report that they did not bond instantaneously with their infants, but rather built a loving relationship as they got to know one another. And, there is no more perfect recipe for a good mom than one is engaged with her world in a variety of ways.

2)      Make time for Yourself: The superwoman our culture holds up spends all day working or caring for her children and never needs time to recharge. One of the fastest routes to feeling very overwhelmed is constant immersion with no reprieve. Even if your “me” time is walking the dog, ask for other adults in your life to help you carve out time to nurture your health, individuality and personal growth.

3)      Make room for Daddy: If he or she is available, let the baby’s other parent take an active role in the child’s life. You’re not the only parent who can change a diaper, quiet a fretting baby, or wipe a stuffy nose. In fact, do your relationship the favor of creating the expectation for balanced childrearing responsibilities from the start.

5 Replies to “Postpartum Depression”

  1. I just wanted to comment and say that I truely in joy your blog. I’m currently “trying” to get into therapy for depression and anxiety. But I’m a bit stand offish on it all. The more I read your blog the more I determined I am to find a therapist. I honestly wish you were closer to me. Anyway, Congrats on your newborn son! And again Thank you for this blog!!

    1. I remain a Gemini on this: Both an optmsiit and a pessimist.I’ve only once met, in face to face life, a therapist who was willing to stop TELLING me and start LISTENING to me. Considering the number of times I’ve tried, that is REALLY bad odds. Also, it’s like there’s a script flowing through a therapist’s mind telling him/her to mistranslate what I say and why I say it. It is really MOST frustrating. Maybe it’s how I talk? Or the fact that I cannot smile? (tremors) I’m sure I play a part in the thing, but I have never been able to isolate what that part is! Funny too, people in real-life seem to understand me just fine.I’ve talked, as an advocate, with a great many therapists. One of the most frustrating parts of that is mistranslation of motivation. Lately, I’ve been talking to a US psychologist from the APA group 51. He has this thing going through his head that feminist power theory is pure science. Thus, anyone who sees that theory (and thus much of psychology) as hatred of men MUST (in his eyes) be jealous of women or want to harm women. He just plain CANNOT understand that there are other valid ways of seeing the thing. So very many times I’ve seen that exact fault ‘ X is the only way to see Y. ‘ DUMB! Real dumb.Dr. Helen: I put the whole thing together and I am not entirely sure it is possible to pick a therapist of any brand with any reliability. It seems to be a matter of most are fine with ordinary problems, depression and such, but once you’ve stepped outside of ordinary the odds of finding someone go down to abysmal. Plus, even for ordinary problems, there will be many really bad therapists. Sorting out the mess and finding the jewels is thus, in my mind, not at all a simple problem. It is a problem fraught with multiple difficulties. There’s good professional people out there, but they seem to me to be such a small minority that the whole problem comes down to looking for diamonds in the muck pile behind the barn.

      1. Hi Henning, thanks for stopping by my little corner of the web. Geez, it sounds like you’ve had pretty rotten luck so far finding someone that can not only connect with your experiences, but also can articulate back something that sounds like they have a reasonable understanding of the things they have heard. You’re right–as therapists we often do worry so much about having a good answer that we forget to listen deeply. In a field in which we are hired to witness people’s lives in an exquisitely nuanced manner, it sucks when we don’t seem to have the most basic skill set associated with our craft. I am entirely positive that at some point, someone (probably more than one somebody, alas) has left my office wondering if I was part of the same session she was. Thanks for the reminder that therapists must listen well before doing or saying anything else.

  2. I experienced postpartum depression with my first child and this was a real heartbreaker for my entire family. No one could really understand what I was going through and it really got to the point where I could not function anymore. With the help of my OB GYN and a therapist I got through this and I have to say that maybe I love my daughter even more than I ever thought I could and perhaps it is because of this experience. My husband once he finally understood what was going on was very loving and helped me a great deal too. Post partum depression is an issue that seems to be written off too much but it is real and all should be on the lookout for the symptoms.

  3. Thank you both for taking the time to read my blog!

    I’m so glad to hear that you are both on a track to feeling better. I agree that Postpartum depression and anxiety often don’t get the attention and interventions they should. Sometimes, even well-meaning healthcare providers don’t realize that PPD can strike at any time during the first year postpartum, not just in those first few weeks. But, it sounds as though you were blessed with wonderful frontline clinicians who helped you get the help you need and steered you away from self-blame. That, is a beautiful thing!

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