After you’ve had your baby, you may find that you are experiencing a wide range of emotions. You’re excited to see the little one finally, after so many long months of pregnancy. You’re anticipating what life will be like with a new member of your family. You may even feel down or sad. It is not unusual for new mothers to experience postpartum depression.
A Common Condition
Although you may feel guilty that you are not as happy as you think you should be after your baby arrives, postpartum depression is not your fault and it is more common than you may realize. In fact, it’s the most common problem for new mothers. However, it will probably not get better without treatment. If you recognize the symptoms, you should talk to a healthcare provider or a mental health treatment professional for your health as well as for your baby’s.
Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression
The term postpartum means the period of time just after giving birth. Most women feel a little sad a few days after their baby is born. This is known as the “baby blues.” When you have the baby blues, you may have mild mood changes and feel worried, unhappy, or exhausted. This is a natural reaction to having a new baby who requires around-the-clock care and who has changed your normal routine completely.
When those blues are severe or if they continue for two weeks or more, you may have a condition known as postpartum depression. One in nine new mothers experiences this condition. Depression is a serious mental illness involving your brain and affecting your physical and behavioral health. Your sad, empty feelings don’t go away and can interfere with your everyday functioning. You might even feel disconnected from your new baby, which can affect you and the newborn significantly.
If you experience any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more after giving birth, contact a healthcare professional:
- Crying a great deal
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Feeling overwhelmed, restless, or moody
- Feeling unconnected to your new baby
- Lacking motivation or energy
- Changes in eating habits
- Changes in sleep habits, beyond the normal loss of sleep with a newborn
- Memory or focus problems
- Feeling guilty or like you’re a bad mother
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as aches and pains, headaches, or stomach issues that won’t go away
- Having thoughts of hurting the baby or yourself.
Do not feel embarrassed or guilty when you experience these symptoms. Having postpartum depression does not make you a bad mother. You need to discuss the condition with a trusted family member or friend and then seek out professional treatment for the sake of your mental and physical health.
The exact cause of postpartum depression is not known, but there are some potential reasons for you to experience this condition, including the hormonal changes you experienced during pregnancy. Levels of estrogen and progesterone are at their highest when you are pregnant. Usually, those hormone levels quickly drop back to normal level within 24 hours after giving birth. The sudden change may be one of the causes of depression in new mothers.
You may also experience a drop in your thyroid hormone levels after childbirth. Your thyroid is a small gland in your neck that helps to regulate how your body stores and uses energy from the food you consume. When you have low levels of thyroid hormones, you can experience the symptoms of depression.
A more severe mental illness that can develop after childbirth is postpartum psychosis. More devastating than depression, postpartum psychosis is a medical emergency. If you experience the symptoms of this condition, you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.
When you have postpartum psychosis, you can have thoughts or beliefs that are not true (delusions), see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations), a high and elated mood that is out of touch with reality (mania), confusion, and paranoia. You may be at risk of harming yourself or your baby. Recovery from postpartum psychosis is possible with professional help.
Mental Health Treatment at HVRC
Understanding and recognizing the signs of postpartum depression can mean the difference in your mental and physical health as well as your new baby’s. If the condition has led to a substance use disorder, it is especially important to get the right treatment. The professional team at Hemet Valley Recovery Center focuses on your needs as you face unique psychological, medical, and social challenges in your life.
Please contact HVRC for help beginning a journey of recovery. We invite you to take the first step toward healing with our dedicated team of professionals.