Having a baby is hard. Whether it’s your first or your fifth, the transition after bringing baby home can be challenging at best. And although that transition can come with a lot of emotional fluctuations, frequently referred to as the “baby blues”, Postpartum Depression is a whole other animal.
Frequently, when sitting across from a new mother in my office they share about their efforts to reach out for help. Maybe it’s to a family member, friend or medical provider (OB, Midwife or Primary Care Physician). What boggles my mind is how often they are told that what they are experiencing is “normal”. While unfortunately Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or bi-polar is very common affecting approximately 20% of mothers (and 10% of fathers and non-gestational parents) it is NOT normal.
I would like to share what differentiates the baby blues from a PMAD so in the event you or someone you care about is affected you will know when it’s time to reach out and get the right kind of help to feel better faster.
Transient mood shifts throughout the day marked by tearfulness or irritability
First 2 to 3 weeks (at most)
Influenced significantly by hormonal shifts and sleep deprivation
Does not significantly affect functioning
Affects 70-80% of new mothers
Not a mental health condition
Resolves itself over time
PMAD (Postpartum Depression or Anxiety):
Excessive sadness or worry most of the day for most days
Extends past the first couple of weeks
Impacts functioning for example, inability to sleep (even when baby sleeps), decreased appetite, unable to concentrate, decreased enjoyment in things
Scary, vivid and intrusive thoughts about harm coming to baby (both intentional or accidental)
Disconnection from or excessive clinginess to baby
Feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, worthlessness and/or hopelessness (“Bad mother”)
Low or no motivation to complete even simple tasks
Just not feeling like yourself
Does not get better over time
If you or someone you know are experiencing the symptoms of a PMAD it is imperative you reach out to a medical or mental health provider to get the appropriate help. Prognosis for recovery is much better the quicker the symptoms are recognized and appropriately treated. If your provider tells you it’s “normal”, and just take a walk or get some more sleep and you still feel like something is just not right, keep reaching out until someone listens! A wonderful resource is the Postpartum Support International helpline at 1-800-944-4773. You can speak with someone who can get you connected with providers in your area that can get you the support you need.
If you are local to Syracuse or the Central New York area and think you may be suffering from Postpartum Depression, feel free to reach out to me through my website or call me at 315-552-0180. You are not alone and you can get better with help!