So many women find themselves surprised to be struggling with pregnancy or postpartum depression, anxiety or adjustment issues. When we imagine our lives as parents, we rarely anticipate much of the emotional, social and physical challenges ahead. The road to becoming a parent and parenting can feel incredibly overwhelming. (Some of us had difficulty becoming pregnant, complications or losses during pregnancy or labor and delivery.) Yet one out of eight mothers experiences some kind of postpartum mood or anxiety disorder.
Postpartum Depression is an umbrella term for a host of postpartum and pregnancy-related mood and anxiety disorders including: depression, anxiety or panic, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosis. Don’t let the “label” stop you from getting the help you need.
Postpartum depression can occur anytime within the first year after delivery of your newborn. Some of the symptoms may mimic those common in pregnancy and during the postpartum adjustment period. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders can develop no matter how many children you have.
Some common symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness, doubt, guilt, or helplessness after the first few weeks of having the baby at home
- Strong feelings of anger or depression
- Trouble completing tasks at home, concentrating; mood symptoms getting in the way of regular functioning
- Excessive worry about baby or others
- Panic attacks
- Fears or thoughts of harming baby or yourself
- Racing thoughts – feeling sped up
- Feeling disconnected from your baby
- Sleep trouble (not sleeping even if baby is sleeping) and/or acute appetite changes
- Delusions or hallucinations
Depression is the number one complication of childbirth. One in eight mothers in the United States has a postpartum depression – making it more common than gestational diabetes or preterm delivery. * While women with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders often feel alone; you are not alone.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel – you will get better. Postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary, and they are treatable. The sooner you seek treatment, the better you will feel. Taking care of yourself is, in turn, taking care of your baby.
Having a postpartum mood disorder is not your fault. It does not mean you are or will be a “bad mother.” Research suggests a combination of factors may contribute to developing a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder including your personal and family history, hormonal changes, stress and level of support, fatigue, pregnancy and birth-related concerns and more.
Motherhood is a life and role transition. We learn to become mothers and that takes time.
*O’Hara MW, Swain AM, Rates and risk of postpartum depression: a meta analysis. Int. Rev of Psychiatry 1996; 8:37-54