Stages of postpartum depression are something that people very rarely talk about or even realize, up until recently when women started coming out of the stigma and openly talking about it.
Celebrities like Princess Diana, Cardi B, Adele, Bryce Dallas Howard, Courtney Cox, Britney-spears, and many more have openly talked about their journey through postpartum depression.
What happens in most cases of postpartum depression is that women paint a picture-perfect image of how things will be after childbirth when in reality things might actually be very different.
Before we dive into the topic, if you are a new mother who is going through postpartum stress and depression, here is something you need to know and hear-
“It’s ok, nothing is wrong with you. Don’t blame yourself.
What you are going through right now is normal and it shall pass.”
The Stages of Postpartum Depression: Who All are Affected?
Within a span of 9 months, the emotional and physical changes one goes through are overwhelming but then pregnancy also involves another life, bringing another life into the world and also taking care of it, all while keeping your life on hold, which is definitely not an easy path. The beauty of the journey from a woman to a mother is very powerful. It is one of the most memorable and biggest joys not just for the mother but also for everyone in the family.
Every new mother will face some kind of baby blues as it’s natural- your life now revolves around your small bundle of joy. That transition may or may not be smooth for all. The stuff you go through during this transition will depend on you, your family, and your surroundings.
But new mom bliss in some cases is overshadowed by mental struggles that most women are too scared or ashamed to admit, as it is also new to them.
The intensity of these mental struggles can come in various forms changing from moderate to severe.
How to Differentiate Postpartum Depression from Baby Blues?
Baby blues usually subside after a few weeks of pregnancy and is not as severe as postpartum depression. Pregnancy-related depression need not start after pregnancy in all cases, in some cases, it can start way before pregnancy and this is termed peripartum depression(1).
Symptoms of postpartum depression vs symptoms of baby blues.
- Severe mood swings
- Uncontrollable crying for no particular reason.
- Eating disorder (eating too less/overeating)
- Lack of interest in bonding with the baby.
- Feeling shameful or guilty.
- Isolation from the rest of the family members.
- A sleep disorder(insomnia or sleeping too much)
- Feeling you are not good enough
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
- Suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks and restlessness.
- Mood swings
- Reduced Apettite
- Issue with the sleep cycle
- Feeling sad
- Lack of concentration
What Is Postpartum Psychosis?
One of the rarest and more severe cases of postpartum depression is when the person completely loses oneself and starts hallucinating. The person might not just have thoughts of hurting oneself and the baby but might actually carry it out, this condition is termed postpartum psychosis(2). Psychosis though, very rare may only affect 1 or 2 in 1000’s is dangerous, and requires immediate medical attention. It is considered a medical emergency.
Factors That Can Trigger Postpartum Depression
- A person having a previous issue with depression or a family history of depression
- Lack of social support
- Being a single parent
- Relationship conflict with your partner
- Health complications during pregnancy
- A baby who is difficult to manage. For example; a baby who sleeps less during the night or a baby that cries a lot.
The above factors are not a sure cause of postpartum depression but can act only as a triggering factor, the cause of PPD can be associated with various physical and chemical changes that take place in the women’s body. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone are claimed to increase 10 times more during pregnancy, which drops right back after pregnancy. These drastic changes in the chemical balance of the body combined with the psylogolial changes and physical changes are claimed to be associated with depression.
Understanding And Getting Through The Stages of Postpartum Depression
One of the most common misconceptions of PPD is that most people think it only affects new and first-time mothers. That is definitely not true and it can happen to any mother no matter if you are on baby one or baby two.
PPD is a complication of having another life to look after and the stress that comes with it and it is never a character flaw of the women going through it. Thoughts like, “How can I have postpartum depression, I can’t be mentally ill.” Will only make the situation worse.
One of the major reasons why recovering from PPD is hard is because most of the time the person involved is in denial. Realizing and accepting the situation is the first and foremost step toward recovery from PPD.
Just like treating any other type of depression, PPD can also be categorized in phases:
Phase 1: Denial
Phase 2: Anger
Phase 3: Self Blame
Phase 4: Depression
Phase 5: Accepting
In some cases women have expressed feeling still lost even after the treatment, this stage is PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder)(3). It’s when you have overcome something but still the effect of going through something that severe lingers. This can be healed over time. When your child grows and you slowly get back into your normal life. In some cases, this could take around two to three years to fully recover from the trauma. Therefore love yourself, and give yourself time and patience to heal.
Clinical treatments of PPD include cognitive behavioral therapy, giving the new mom the help and support she deserves(both physically and emotionally), and letting her get enough sleep.
If you are a new mother who is having a tough time adjusting to the new life then keep these in mind:
- Never be afraid to ask for help.
- Take turns in feeding the baby at night with your partner.
- Don’t shut yourself at home, go out and mingle.
- Invite over friends and family.
- Share baby time with family
- Get rest whenever you can.
Is your loved one suffering from postpartum depression? Here is how you can help them.
- Observe the person and once you start noticing signs of panic and anxiety in them, kindly urge them to seek medical attention
- Try to pay more attention to them and be with them as much as possible
- Help them in doing their daily chores, for example, help them in cleaning or take care of the baby and allow them time to rest
- Listen! Listen to them when they talk and don’t judge.
- If the person has a lot going on, get them help or a caretaker.
Most commonly prescribed medications for PPD
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Warning: Never self-medicate, it can cause adverse side effects. The above medications are only for reference purposes. Always talk to your medical advisor before getting any medications.
Can PPD Affect Your Newborn?
In some cases yes!
Since depression causes trouble in bonding with the baby, one might fail to establish a bond with the new baby. You might miss out on your baby’s regular health checks and shots
The baby might be at a higher risk of obesity and also might develop learning problems.
Additionally, your child may develop poor social skills while growing up.
Postpartum depression is common today. Awareness is the key to coping with postpartum depression. As many as around 75% of people experience a mild state of depression once a baby is born. In some cases, even first-time fathers experience postpartum depression. Seek help and help each other throughout your new journey with your precious little one.
Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed and make your boundaries clear. Setting boundaries between your professional and personal life are also important.
Avoid negativity and negative people, and don’t let someone judge you and pressure you about how to take care of your baby. Do what makes you happy. Finally, don’t change your life for the baby, and try to include the baby in your life.
Motherhood is a journey that is both thrilling and rewarding. It has its ups and downs but at the end of the day when you see your baby smile, it’s all worth it.