Bringing a newborn into the world is a journey that brings a great deal of change. For women who choose to parent after birth, their new child will play an important role in every decision they make from here on out. For women who have placed their child for adoption, their decision will impact them for the rest of their life. Both paths require a great deal of adjustment, especially if a pregnancy was initially unplanned.
The rapid changes in life after giving birth can be overwhelming for every woman, regardless of her situation. But, for some women, these challenges manifest themselves in a more difficult way: through postpartum depression.
If you’re like many women, you may think that postpartum depression is a rare occurrence. However, postpartum depression and anxiety is more common than you may think — which is why it’s so important that you are aware of the signs and symptoms to recognize when your experience after childbirth is more than just normal “baby blues.”
The best person to speak to about postpartum depression after birth will always be your doctor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your medical professional if you are worried about your mental state after childbirth. They can properly diagnose what you are feeling and get you the help you need.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your child, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) right away.
In the meantime, you can learn a little more about the basics of postpartum depression below.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Like many mood disorders and conditions, postpartum depression in women often manifests differently in each situation. Some women who are 100 percent excited to become a parent and raise a child are baffled by the feelings of sadness they experience after giving birth, while others who are unsure about becoming a parent may think their emotions are an extension of their natural anxiety and worry about having a child to raise. No two situations of postpartum depression after pregnancy are the same, which is why a medical professional is necessary to get women the help they need.
That said, there are some important facts to know, whether you are an expectant mother worried about postpartum depression after birth or a new mother concerned about your mental state.
Postpartum Depression Definition
While every case of postpartum depression will be unique, there is one way that medical professionals define postpartum depression in order to diagnose it:
“Moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth, occurring soon after delivery or up to a year later.”
Severe postpartum depression is different from normal “baby blues” because it involves feelings of sadness and anxiety that last longer than two weeks, do not go away on their own, and can interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself and her newborn, if she chooses to parent. Postpartum depression will require medical intervention to be treated.
There are a few common symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety that will often lead to a diagnosis from a medical professional:
- Agitation or irritability
- Changes in appetite
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Feeling like you are withdrawn or unconnected
- Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities
- Loss of concentration
- Loss of energy
- Problems doing tasks at home or work
- Significant anxiety
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Trouble sleeping
In addition, if a woman is unable to care for herself or her baby, feels scared to be alone with her baby, has negative feelings toward her baby, or worries intensely (or not at all) about her baby, after-delivery postpartum depression may be to blame.
If you are curious about the signs and symptoms of this condition, remember that your doctor is the best person to describe exactly what postpartum depression is and what you should be on the lookout for after you give birth. Don’t forget: New fathers can experience postpartum depression, too!
Postpartum Depression Meaning
Knowing the postpartum depression definition is only part of understanding exactly what postpartum depression is and why it is so serious. In order to fully understand this condition, you must first recognize the postpartum depression meaning for new mothers and their families.
Caring for a newborn baby is a difficult adjustment for any parent but especially for women who are simultaneously recovering from the trials of childbirth. At the same time that a woman’s body requires rest and relaxation to properly recover from childbirth, she will either have a newborn to care for 24/7 or a difficult grieving process to go through after choosing adoption. Having a partner to assist in this process is invaluable, but not all women have this luxury.
When a woman experiences postpartum depression and anxiety, every single act of caring for a child is that much harder. She may be exhausted, angry, sad or otherwise upset about caring for her newborn — without even knowing why. Many new parents think that the period right after childbirth is supposed to be an amazing one when a new little family bonds, but postpartum depression can make this impossible. A spouse who doesn’t understand what a woman is going through can grow resentful, which can strain their relationship more than it already is during this vulnerable postpartum time.
For women who are diagnosed with postpartum depression after birth, it is more than just a medical condition. It’s a mental health crisis that can affect every moment of their bonding time with their infant and even put themselves and their children in danger, should they have suicidal thoughts. Postpartum depression is not a joke or something to be taken lightly; it’s a serious mental health issue that needs more awareness and understanding by all people, not just expectant mothers. If left untreated, the condition can last for months or years and severely affect a mother’s ability to connect with and care for her baby.
However, remember this: There is help, and you are not alone. If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, reach out to your medical professional. There is medication and other treatments to help you feel yourself again and have a successful first year with your newborn baby.
The information presented in this article is not intended to be and should not be taken as medical advice. Please speak with a local medical professional for more information about postpartum depression after pregnancy.