The first months of a baby's life should be a time of joy for new parents. But for many new mothers, these months are marked by sadness, fear, anger, or anxiety.
It's common to have short spells of sadness or grouchiness after giving birth, because of the pain, change in hormone levels, and lack of sleep. But sometimes the feelings are extreme and won't go away. These feelings may be signs of postpartum depression.
How you may feel
The "baby blues" can make a new mother feel alone, afraid, and exhausted. These feelings are common and normal. But women who suffer from postpartum depression are so overwhelmed by these feelings that they can't function normally. They feel hopeless and anxious. They may feel angry at their partner or at their baby. They may begin to wonder whether they are cut out for motherhood.
Does this sound like you?
Talk with your doctor if you experience any of the following warning signs:
Sadness or anxiety that lasts for more than two weeks after giving birth
Strong feelings of depression and anger that appear a month or two after your baby is born
Increased or decreased hunger
Anxiety or panic attacks
Sleeping too much
Fear that you might hurt your baby or yourself
Sadness, guilt, or hopelessness
Little interest in your baby or other members of your family
What you should know
It's important to know that although postpartum depression can be serious, it doesn't mean that you're unfit to be a parent. Pain from giving birth and changes in your body may contribute to the depression. The sudden drop in hormones and lack of sleep may also be factors.
Some ways to cope
Postpartum depression can be treated. The sooner it is diagnosed, the sooner you can begin to enjoy the new member of your family. But you must get professional help to be diagnosed and treated.
If you have the symptoms of postpartum depression, you can do a lot to improve your situation. In addition to talking with a doctor, it's important to take the following steps:
Rely on your family and friends. By talking with friends and relatives who have children, you may also find others who have dealt with similar emotions.
Share your feelings, no matter how frightening they may seem, with your partner.
Try to create some private time for yourself.
Get the support of your partner, and ask for help with cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the baby. And don't be afraid to speak up when you feel overwhelmed.
Getting help for postpartum depression starts with recognizing the symptoms, and then realizing that you are not alone. If you or a loved one is living with postpartum depression, seek advice from your doctor right away.