Postpartum Depression and New Mom Anxiety
When do the roller coaster of emotions become a health concern?
As a mom, I remember the newborn days and I’m going to be honest with you…it’s all a blur. I wanted to enjoy every second and soak it all in, but I was physically and emotionally drained in a way that I had never been before.
As a nurse, I understand the hormonal shifts, exhaustion, and physiological changes during the postpartum period. You’re a mix of emotions, your body is not your own, you’re sleep deprived, and you're left wondering how on earth life will ever feel normal again.
And then you look at your baby’s face and the worries melt away. Or do they?
For a lot of us, postpartum blues may kick in within the first few days after childbirth or slowly creep in. While “baby blues” may come and go or linger, did you know the feelings may or may not include sadness? Although feeling down may occur along with tears, it’s important to recognize that it’s also common to feel cranky, overwhelmed, and even angry.
A common misconception is that a new mom must be hysterically crying all day to be struggling with postpartum issues and that’s just not the case. Many times, the feelings may cycle between worry, fear, apprehension, or anger. While these emotions may resolve on their own, without treatment, what if baby blues don’t just go away?
When is it time to worry that you may be experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? How do you know when it’s time to ask for help? My first answer is this: if you’re ever unsure if what you’re feeling is “normal”, or you’re ever concerned, reach out to your doctor, midwife, spouse, sister, best friend, or trusted partner. Speak to someone who will listen, take you seriously, and guide you to appropriate resources to help you manage and address your concerns.
Below is a list of symptoms- for both postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA). You may not experience every symptom on the list, or you may be experiencing something not mentioned on this list. But if any of these symptoms describe how you’re feeling, please reach out for help. You are not alone, and there is absolutely nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about.
• Feeling of being overwhelmed- beyond just ‘the usual.’ You may wonder if you can handle being a mother at all, or if you should’ve had a baby to begin with.
• You don’t feel that you have connected to, or are bonding with your baby.
• You feel guilty because you feel like you should be doing better, feeling happier, and that your baby deserves better. You wonder if your baby can tell how awful you feel.
• You may feel confused, scared, angry, impatient, or resentful.
• You may feel absolutely nothing – just empty.
• You may feel so sad you wonder if you’ll ever stop crying.
• You feel hopeless, are unable to focus. You may feel like you’re a failure. You may be afraid to reach out for help because you fear people will judge you.
• You may be feeling like in theory you’re “doing everything right” and were hoping you’d “snap out of this,” but you haven’t.
• You may have thoughts of running away, harming yourself, or your baby.
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(can also present as Postpartum OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder)
• You feel unable to relax or calm your mind.
• You feel the need to be doing something at all times – the need to stay busy.
• You are worried – very worried, about everything, all the time.
• You are afraid of things that could potentially cause you or your baby harm.
• You feel the need to constantly check things – is the baby breathing, is the house locked, is the stove off?
• No amount of reassuring seems to help you.
• You may be feeling physically ill – nausea, headaches – you may sometimes feel like you’re going to have a panic attack.
It’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms can appear anytime within the first year postpartum. And, if left untreated, these symptoms can occur beyond the first year postpartum. Just remember this: PPD and PPA are temporary and they can be treated with the proper help.
I can tell you that these feelings are common and I am certain we should all be discussing this openly and frequently. There are resources to help and talking about it is the first step. If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please seek help immediately.
Call 911, your doctor, your midwife, doula, friend, neighbor, family member, and just get someone to be with you. These disorders can deceive you by causing you to do things you wouldn’t normally do and should be taken seriously. With proper help and proper management, you can, and will, feel like yourself again.
This mothering thing is full of beautiful moments and joy, but it is also a tough job. PPD and PPA can make it much harder, so please remember you’re not alone in this and the most important step you can take is to seek help. For those brave mamas out there who’ve dealt with either PPD or PPA, what helped you? What advice can you share with others?
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Disclosure: This post provides content and discussion related to health, wellness, and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this blog including links should not be considered medical advice and should not be construed as such. Any health/wellness information should not be considered an alternative or replacement for information given to you by a licensed physician. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with a licensed physician.
Linda Scruggs RN, BSN serves as a resource for parents in the digital space, creating helpful health and wellness content. She has specialized for over 12 years in reproductive medicine, and family and women's health as a nurse. A mom of two young children, her work can be seen on her own blog via her site, lindascruggs.com, as a contributor to The Huffington Post, and created the patient education program in one of the top fertility centers in the country. Linda is all about empowerment in motherhood and would love to connect.