I remember taking a shower shortly after giving birth to my daughter, and crying because I had the thought, “Is this motherhood? Holy crap, am I going to feel this way for the next 18 years?” God bless us during those first few weeks postpartum, especially as a first-time mom. Now I can confidently say, thank goodness, life is not as hard as it was the first few weeks postpartum. As a therapist who now works with moms struggling with life postpartum, the most common question is, “Is this normal?” Postpartum depression is on the minds of most moms these days, but no one knows what to really look for. It often just seems like just another item to worry about. Let’s talk about what to look for in postpartum depression and how to navigate life with baby.
This can’t be normal. Is this normal?
As a mama, let me just clear the air now. There is nothing normal with extreme sleep deprivation, hormone changes, body changes, birth recovery, trying to learn how to feed a baby, and the pressures that come along with having a newborn. You will experience mood swings beyond your control, and I can’t pretend it is normal. You are being stretched physically, mentally, and emotionally to the extreme. This is obviously not normal, except for that it is totally normal, Mama.
It is normal on the scope of your journey in motherhood. The Instagram bliss of a new baby is a lie. We have all worn the diapers, forgotten to shower, fallen asleep at the dinner table, and cried about the most irrational things to our loved ones. This is what clinically is referred to as the “baby blues.”
Common Symptoms of Baby Blues:
- Mood swings
- Feelings of overwhelm
- Feelings of sadness
- Trouble sleeping, even when the baby sleeps
- Lack of patience
- Increased anxiety
- Poor concentration
When I say that we have all been there, I mean clinically that 70-80% of all women experience some combination of these symptoms. Scientists are not exactly sure of the cause but link it to drastic hormone changes that take place in our bodies after giving birth. In general, these feelings should lessen in severity 2 weeks after giving birth. This does not mean that two weeks out you are going to feel amazing again. Things should simply start to feel less overwhelming.
What about postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a more severe version of baby blues. Once you reach that 2-week mark, if things start getting worse, then perhaps it’s postpartum depression. Postpartum depression most commonly impacts moms within that first year after birth, but it isn’t uncommon to be in recovery for up to 3 years. Here are some symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Symptoms associated with the “baby blues,” but increasing in severity over time
- Feelings of disconnect from your baby
- Withdrawing from loved ones or support systems
- Large appetite changes, usually decreased appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Thoughts of harming yourself or others around you
- A score of higher than 13 on the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale
Just a disclaimer, the Edinburg Postnatal Depression Scale is not intended to be used for a true diagnosis, but it may be a helpful tool in helping you decide how you proceed with your health care.
The most important message for my fellow mamas is this…
Postpartum depression and baby blues have nothing to do with your ability to be a good mother.
I bolded that statement for a reason. I will hold your hand and scream it from the mountain tops until you start to believe it. Remember what causes all of these crazy symptoms? Hormones. Chemical imbalance.
A list of items that are completely unrelated from postpartum depression/baby blues:
- Your ability to be a good mother
- The amount of love you have for your child and family
- Your ability to be a good partner/daughter/friend
- Your self-worth
- Sheer strength and determination
Postpartum depression is typically treated with talk therapy, medication, or both. There is help and support, but typically the hardest part is prioritizing your health in the season of new motherhood. Look for a therapist in your area who specializes in postpartum disorders. There may be local support groups nearby. Remember that postpartum is a season. And as always, if you have thoughts that you may harm yourself or others, reach out immediately.