She was a picture of happy motherhood. Her social media accounts showed a smiling Mama with a precious baby. Friends and family came to visit and she talked all things baby with them, a smile on her face. Her husband and closest friends noticed a few things that seemed off but assumed it was hormones. Everything appeared to be going ok for her. She was happy and loving this new baby.Deep down she was happy to be a Mom. Yet something didn’t feel quite right. Many days she was faking that smile because she felt like she had to. “What mother would be feeling sad after having a new baby?” she wondered.
Every morning she got up and dragged herself out of bed wondering if being so exhausted was a normal postpartum symptom. Sitting in the rocker holding her sweet child she would sometimes cry when nobody else was around. This mother felt like she had to put on a happy face or people would think she didn’t love her child.
Day in and day out she would go through the motions. Get up, feed the baby, go for a walk with the baby, smile as she passed the neighbors, go to Mom’s group to laugh and play, come home to post pictures from the happy day online. Yet she was not actually interested in doing any of these things.
They didn’t bring her the joy that showed on her face. Some days she’d look at her baby and feel like she had no connection at all with her own child. She’d skip showers, eat tiny meals, and sometimes stare off into the distance at nothing at all. “It’s all normal motherhood, right?” she’d say to her husband.
Her husband became concerned because she was worn out and letting her guard down. He felt like it was well past the length of time her hormones should be out of balance. A friend of his at work mentioned his wife had depression after birth but he questioned if this could be the case.
His wife had never struggled with depression before, nor did she have a family history of it. When he came home one day to see his wife crying again he decided to reach out to their midwife to ask about signs of postpartum depression.
This scenario happens to millions of families every year. Postpartum depression (PPD) is often hard to diagnose because it can present in so many ways and because women are often excellent at hiding their emotions. In this article, we’ll look at signs of postpartum depression, treatment options, and how it may also affect husbands as well.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
PPD can display itself in a lot of ways. Here are the common and less common signs to look out for. Men can also experience a form of PPD. It is sometimes classified as an adjustment disorder and other times classified as depression.
It is important to make this distinction: “Baby blues” is NOT the same thing as postpartum depression. Baby blues appear within the first few weeks after birth, lasts a few days, and is usually hormonal. It’s often compared to intense PMS. Most women will experience baby blues.
While it can be an intense, emotional, and overwhelming experience it’s not something healthcare and mental health professionals worry about. PPD will persist for weeks, months, or years and requires treatment and outside help.
We hope this information will help provide clarity as to what to keep an eye out for following the birth of a baby. Remember these symptoms can develop over time. Not everyone will have all of these signs and some may have very few signs at all. Some of these symptoms are common in motherhood. When you see one of these on the list, do not panic.
These are only a concern if they’re obsessive, consuming, or extreme. Worry, for example, is something all mothers will do from time to time. If an incredible amount of a mother’s waking hours are spent in worry or she’s losing sleep with worry, this may be a sign of something deeper going on.
Your six week postpartum visit should screen for PPD but it can appear months after the birth of a baby. If you ever have concerns about what you’re thinking, feeling, or experiencing, please reach out to us or to your healthcare provider.
- Crying – excessive and uncontrollable
- Empty or numb feeling
- Extreme mood swings
- Intense overwhelm
- Excessive sleeping
- Panic attacks
- Thoughts of self-harm
- Thoughts of harming the baby
- Thoughts of harming others
- Thoughts of running away or leaving
- Dark thoughts
- Difficulty rousing from sleep or lack of desire to get out of bed
- Loss of interest in baby
- Loss of interest in one’s spouse
- Loss of interest in social activities
- Loss of interest in things that used to bring joy
- Low or absent libido
- Hostility or anger towards baby
- Addictive behaviors
- Re-emergence of past addictive behaviors
- Zoning out on the computer/ social media
- Disconnecting with the baby
- Disconnecting with your spouse
- Disconnecting with friends and family
- Headaches, when headaches were not common before
- Joint pain and muscle aches, when they were not common before
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Difficulty with decision making
- Difficulty remembering facts and details
- Consistent inability to form cohesive thoughts or sentences
- Feeling like you “just can’t snap out of it”
Less common signs
- Loss of appetite
- Self-soothing or self-medicating with food
- Sleeping infrequently without fatigue
- Loss of interest in self-care or self-hygiene
- Referring to the baby as “it,” “the baby,” or another neutral pronoun instead of the child’s name or an affectionate nickname
- Fears of dying
- Intensive anger
- Anger outbursts
- Obsessive fretting and worrying
- Repetitive obsessive behaviors, such as changing the baby’s clothes or diaper multiple times a day even if they do not need to be changed
- Fully believing she is incapable of becoming a mother
- Not making eye contact with the baby
- Obsessive or hyper-focus on a task, such as making sure the nursery is always clean
- Inability to transition from one activity to another without stress or emotional outbursts
Postpartum Depression in Men
Most of the symptoms of PPD in women also apply to men. Awareness is growing that men also struggle with emotional changes after the birth of a baby. However, it’s nowhere near as well-known or monitored as PPD in women. Around 10% of men are thought to struggle with paternal PPD but many do not seek treatment.
If one partner suffers from PPD the likelihood of the other partner struggling with it will increase as well. Men who have previously struggled with depression, or have a family history of depression, do seem to be at a higher risk. Sometimes the lack of sleep caused by a newborn can also trigger emotional instability and mood swings.
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
Seeking help is important for new mothers and fathers. Mothers suffering from untreated PPD are at an increased risk of engaging in self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts and behaviors while fathers who are untreated are more likely to engage in behaviors that are harmful to their wife and child(ren). The emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral development of a child can also be affected when parents have untreated PPD. Here are a few common treatment options. Your counselor and healthcare provider can help you decide which are best for you.
A postpartum doula can be a lifesaver for parents with a new baby. They can come during the day or at night and help out. Doulas are highly trained to help with infant and maternal care. Extensive PPD training is a part of their education and they can be a great support. Postpartum doulas may help with household tasks, breastfeeding, overnight care, transportation to/from appointments, and much much more. In some cases, they may even be covered by insurance.
Removing foods like sugar, processed foods, alcohol, and common inflammatory foods may help some parents. Adding in more fresh fruits and veggies and water will also help. These changes should happen alongside counseling and outside support.
Decreasing stress, increasing social activity, and outsourcing or getting help with household tasks may help. In many cases adding in a gentle exercise program such as walking or yoga also helps.
Herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy are popular natural remedies for PPD. They should never be self-prescribed but always come with the help of a well-trained practitioner. These should occur alongside counseling and support from someone trained to monitor PPD.
Christian meditation practices, increasing time in Christian community, accepting help from your church community, journaling, and taking time to be still with God can calm the mind. We know sometimes these practices are treated as the go-to for any mental health struggle in the church. Please know we suggest these as a way to help support during this time, not as the exclusive way to treat PPD.
In some cases, medication may be used. These may be a single dose or ongoing regular medication.
Sometimes a period of hospitalization or in-patient care at a specialized facility may be involved. This most often occurs if there are serious suicidal thoughts or actions or if postpartum psychosis is involved. Length of stay can range from a few days to a few weeks.
Groups are often found in counseling clinics, hospitals, and birthing centers, through La Leche League groups, and at baby boutiques. These are an excellent way for people to connect with others who understand what they are going through.
This is an important part of PPD recovery. Typically both parents will be involved to some degree. Bonding activities and exercises with the baby may also take place as part of counseling. The counseling relationship may last weeks, months, or years depending on each individual need.
If you or someone you know is suffering from PPD, the time to seek counseling is now. A Christian counselor will come alongside you both to diagnose your condition and help you to work through the various treatment options. A life of health, peace, and love for your child awaits.
“Proud Parents”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Baby”, Courtesy of Jonathan Borba, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Andrae Ricketts, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Facing the Future Alone”, Courtesy of Jen Theodore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
DISCLAIMER: THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this article are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please contact one of our counselors for further information.