Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a serious condition. If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from postpartum depression, please seek help as soon as possible. I am not a medical professional and this post is not meant to diagnose or treat those with postpartum depression. This post has been based solely on my personal experience with postpartum depression and the symptoms I experienced. For more information on how to get diagnosed or treated for postpartum depression, please speak to a qualified medical professional or visit Postpartum Support International, who helped me when I was suffering from PPD.
Is it PPD or just the “baby blues”?
We’ve all heard about the seriousness of depression and the toll it takes on our lives or the lives of our loved ones. It can sometimes be difficult to recognize the signs in yourself or a loved one, which can lead to delays in seeking help for the affected person. The symptoms of postpartum depression can be even more difficult to recognize, and as a result, more dangerous for the mother and her baby going undiagnosed and untreated. Some might mistake postpartum depression for the baby blues. However, there are pretty distinct features of PPD that cannot be confused with baby blues.
5 signs you may have PPD
You are sleeping too little or too much
It is completely normal to be tired when you have a new baby. A bit of sleep deprivation is expected with the unpredictable sleeping and feeding schedules of a newborn. This sign is a difficult one to watch out for simply because we expect mothers to be tired after giving birth. This is also a sign that must be watched out for the most. In my case, I was not getting enough sleep, even when my baby was sleeping. Instead of napping when my baby napped, I would lay awake and let my anxiety take control of me. I didn’t know why I was unable to sleep, and when I was able to finally fall asleep, it was always a very restless sleep that left me feeling even more tired when I woke up. On the flip side, you may be sleeping too much. I had a friend of mine that went through postpartum depression and almost all she did was sleep, she said she felt like she never wanted to get out of bed. Sleep patterns may vary, but if you notice that you are sleeping way too much or way too little, you may be suffering from postpartum depression.
You are incredibly irritable
Occasional irritability is expected in new mothers. Our hormones are all over the place, we’re sleep-deprived, and we likely have a baby attached to our breasts for most of the day. What’s not natural, however, is being irritable at every little thing, or things that normally don’t bother you but then all of a sudden start bothering you. For me, I would get upset at my husband for the most irrational things, like chewing or snoring, things that he had no control over. You know what normally bothers you and you know your normal breaking point. You may have postpartum depression if you find yourself hitting that breaking point multiple times a day without reason.
You are really sad and you don’t know why
This one is usually the most noticeable symptom, but it can be tricky and pushed to the side, brushed off as just hormones. I used to find myself crying every day and not even know why I was crying. I would cry from watching movies, reading books, doing housework, or sometimes even just watching my baby play. The deep sadness I felt weighed heavy on my heart and I just remember thinking “Why am I so sad ALL the time?”. The thing with postpartum depression is, there likely isn’t a specific reason why, and that’s okay. But if you notice that more often than not you can’t pin down the reason, you might have postpartum depression.
You resent your baby or are unable to bond with them
My case may have been different because I didn’t get to bond with my baby all the way. Since my daughter was born prematurely and placed in the NICU for two weeks, I found it very difficult to bond with my baby for the first 6 months. I think part of the reasoning behind that is that she was rushed to the NICU immediately after she was born (no bonding time) and part of it was that I was emotionally and mentally preparing myself for her possible death. Regardless of the reason, I found bonding with her very difficult. This is an awful feeling to have, it makes you feel like a bad mom. It’s not that you don’t love your baby, you just can’t find a way to connect with them. If you have experienced bonding difficulties or even resentment towards your baby, you may have postpartum depression.
You feel like harming yourself or your baby
I, fortunately, did not have thoughts of harming my baby, only myself. I have spoken with moms that have had thoughts or even carried them out though. I always feel so heartbroken for these moms because if they had gotten treatment before their symptoms progressed, then they might not have ended up in those situations. In 2016, 10 months after my daughter was born, I had a mental breakdown. For 10 months that year, I thought I was worthless, that my kids deserved better than me, that I was never going to get out of the dark space that was my own mind. I thought almost every day that I should end my life. A good friend of mine noticed this sign in me and took me to the emergency room where I got help. If you have recurring thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek help immediately, do not wait.
3 things you may not know about PPD
You can still have postpartum depression after a miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, or infant loss
I am the 1 in 8 women who have had the misfortune of suffering from a miscarriage. The emotional and physical impact it had on my body was nothing short of devastating. I had an early miscarriage (before 13 weeks) after an unplanned pregnancy, but something I learned was that it doesn’t matter how early on you lose your baby, or whether or not the baby was planned for, a loss is a loss. I have never had a stillborn baby or infant loss, I could not imagine the pain that some women have gone through, however, I do know the pain of losing the hopes that you had for the baby growing inside you. I do also know about the physical and mental pain after going through preterm labor (read my story here) and how deeply it can affect your mental health. Whether it’s a loss or a fear of loss, all of these events can increase your risk of postpartum depression.
You can have postpartum depression for up to 3 years after giving birth
Sometimes postpartum depression can last years before you recognize it. Just because it is not diagnosed early doesn’t mean you didn’t have it. I have talked to moms who look back on the first 1-3 years after having their baby and realize that they suffered from it and didn’t even know. Regardless of the diagnosis and/or when you recognize the symptoms, just know that it can be debilitating at any stage.
Surrogate mothers, adoptive mothers, and fathers can have postpartum depression
A lot of people think that postpartum depression is limited to mothers that physically give birth to their child, but that is not always the case. Surrogate mothers, adoptive mothers, and even fathers can all suffer from postpartum depression. Not giving birth to your child does not mean you cannot suffer from postpartum depression. Even if the hormones aren’t present, the symptoms still are. The symptoms are all similar to what is listed above. It is important to watch for these symptoms in all new parents and be ready to offer your support.
What to do if you believe you or your loved one may have postpartum depression
Seek out help and support. In recent times, talking about mental health has become less stigmatized. However, I completely understand still being afraid to speak out. I was terrified to speak out about my suspicions of postpartum depression. I thought that by asking for help, I would be seen as a bad mom, confirming my self-destructive thoughts that my kids were better off without me. Even worse still, I thought that admitting I had postpartum depression would mean that I would be seen as an unfit mom and that someone could take my kids away from me. I’m here to tell you right now, that is not true. When I finally received help, it felt like I was finally seen. It felt like coming up for air after being pushed underwater. I became a better mother and a better version of myself when I got help. I was lucky, I got help before something terrible happened to me or my baby. If you think you have postpartum depression or know someone who might, please seek help and support, you could be saving more than one life.