On International Women’s Day, we’ll take a look at a mental health issue affects a large number of women: postpartum depression (PPD), or a depression that occurs after childbirth.
Counter to what you might think, PPD is fairly common. According to the CDC, 11 to 25 percent of mothers experience postpartum depression.
Sadly, more than half of those affected by it (15 percent) do not seek any professional help.
There are multiple issues that keep women from seeking help for this disorder, most notably guilt and shame. It’s difficult for new mothers to come to terms with “the baby blues” – after all, isn’t having a new baby supposed to be the happiest moment in our lives?
Postpartum depression can be serious. Symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you're not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Hormonal changes and the stress from sleep deprivation that comes with caring for a newborn are thought to be causes of PPD.
Left unaddressed PPD can lead to chronic problems with depression and anxiety. Mothers with PPD often have difficulty bonding with their children, which impacts their development and so can affect their own mental health down the road. For your sake, as well as the sake of your child, it is important to seek help.
Postpartum depression can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Should you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, it is critical to seek help right away. Please ask for help from those who support you and your baby. You may also contact:
- Your mental health care provider
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- The Crisis Connection, at 612-379-6363, or 1-866-379-6363.
- Your primary care doctor, minister or spiritual leader
- The mobile crisis team in your county:
- Anoka: 763-755-3801
- Carver/Scott: 952-442-7601
- Dakota: 952-891-7171
- Hennepin: adults - 612-596-1223, children - 612-348-2233
- Ramsey: adults - 651-266-7900, children - 651-774-7000
- Washington: 651-777-5222
Please remember: PPD is not your fault.
Your body has just undergone significant hormonal changes, and you’re adjusting to a very stressful new reality. You are not alone. In the United States alone, an estimated 600,000 women struggle with this disorder. Help is available.
For your own sake, and the sake of your baby, please reach out.