Many people have experienced depression at some point in their lives. They know how dark and isolating these feelings can be. While depression is a horrific medical condition for anyone, it is particularly painful for new mothers.
The birth of a new baby is supposed to bring joy and excitement. Yet, some new mothers may struggle to bond with their babies, get out of bed, take care of them, or eat properly. They may feel regret, shame, self-hate, and loneliness.
During this Mother’s Day, we must remember all of the women who are suffering from maternal depression. Through education, counseling, and awareness, these women can find peace and begin to heal.
What is National Maternal Depression Month and PPD?
National Maternal Depression month falls in May every year. While up to 80% of new mothers struggle with the baby blues due to hormonal fluctuations, postpartum depression is different.
15-20% of women who gave birth, miscarried, or had a stillbirth struggle with long-term depression. This type of depression lasts much longer than the baby blues. It interferes with the ability to take care of a baby and complete everyday tasks.
While many associate PPD with women who hurt their baby, this is rarely the case. Postpartum psychosis is an offshoot of PPD that involves hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, and thoughts of harming a baby. Most women with PPD have less severe symptoms but are still in severe distress. If left untreated, both the baby and mother will suffer emotionally and even physically.
What are the Symptoms of PPD?
PPD can last up to a year after birth. It comes with many of the following symptoms –
· Feeling overwhelmed and unable to handle all of the new requirements of motherhood
· Second-guessing oneself and overanalyzing every little decision
· Feeling guilty for having a baby because one is so unhappy or feels unequipped
· Feeling numb or empty
· Severe mood swings
· Crying for no reason
· Difficulty sleeping
· Difficulty bonding with a new baby
· Isolating from friends and family
· Difficulty eating, or eating too much
· Fatigue, irritability, and anger
· Feeling worthless, ashamed, and inadequate
· Experiencing anxiety and panic attacks
· Intrusive thoughts about harming oneself or the baby
· Thoughts of death or suicide
Treatments and Resources
Any woman who still feels long-term depression after a new baby, or feels more depressed than normal should talk to their doctor. If a woman experiences any of the above symptoms, she should also speak to a professional. A healthcare specialist can diagnose the individual and refer her to a therapist. Healthcare providers include an obstetrician, midwife, or primary care doctor.
Friends and family should watch out for any potential signs of PPD. While a doctor is critical to treat the individual, there are other ways for loved ones to help. Calling the new mother, offering assistance, letting her rest, taking her out to lunch, and asking questions are all great ways to show that you care. It can also let her know that she has people to depend on. Motherhood is difficult enough by itself but is even more so when experiencing PPD.
Other resources include –
· Postpartum Support International – Helps families who are suffering from PPD and distress. Please visit postpartum.net for more information.
· SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 24/7 confidential helpline and treatment referral service to help women and men in distress. Please visit samhsa.gov or call 800-662-HELP for more information.
· New Mom School – An online support group for new moms who are struggling with maternal depression. Please visit newmomschool.com to register for classes and connect with other mothers.
· Straight Talk Counseling – A counseling center in Orange County, CA with expertise in depression, anxiety, and trauma. Please visit straighttalkcounseling.org or call 714-828-2000.
Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, or maternal depression? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.