You just had a beautiful baby, something you’ve wanted for a long time… You arrive home with your bundle of joy, and while elated, you also don’t feel like yourself- this is normal! Your body and mind go through many changes during and after pregnancy. However, if you feel empty, emotionless, or sad most or all of the time, it’s important to take note and track how long these feelings last (more than 2 weeks, and you should contact a health professional). According to the American psychological association, 1 in 7 women experiences a much more serious mood disorder after pregnancy known as postpartum depression (PPD). It’s common to have the baby blues which are symptoms of feeling stressed, sad, anxious, lonely, tired, or weepy following their baby’s birth. Unlike the baby blues, PPD doesn’t go away on its own and can appear days or months after delivering the baby. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- More than just “baby blues”: baby blues is the short period of time after giving birth that’s filled with bouts of sadness, anxiety, stress, and mood swings. It normally lasts no longer than 2 weeks- if these feelings of sadness linger longer or your feelings intensify, then it could be more than the blues. A study reported that blues “generally does not require intervention, its recognition is important because postpartum blues is a risk factor for subsequent PPD.”
- Change in sleep patterns: Your sleeping patterns definitely change when you have a baby. Not only are there hormonal changes going on internally, newborns need attention throughout the night which alters regular sleep patterns. But if you’re sleeping all the time or are unable to nap at all, even when the baby is sleeping, it could be an indicator to pay close attention to other signs. In this study, there is an illustration that one of the symptoms of PPD is “ insomnia or hypersomnia”.
- Feelings of sadness or guilt: It’s normal to feel upset once in a while. But if you have frequent feelings of unhappiness especially about being a parent or you’re down on yourself as a mother, these are known as early signs of PPD. A study on postpartum depression determined that one of the symptoms of PPD is “Worthlessness or guilt”.
- Losing interest in things that you previously enjoyed: This may be a small sign, but it’s still important! Have you noticed that you are not laughing at your favorite comedy? Or don’t enjoy listening to your favorite music artist? Or not interested in your favorite foods? If so, talk to your healthcare provider about these mood changes. A study determined that the diagnosis of PPD includes “either depression or anhedonia (loss of interest)”.
- Trouble making decisions: Having a baby alters the normal flow of a routine you may have had for years. You have another person you have to care for and this may lead to you losing sleep and becoming too tired to think. If you find yourself having a hard time deciding to get out of bed, taking a shower, and changing your baby’s diaper most of the time, you should consider talking to a professional. This is one of the earlier signs of PPD. This study determined that “impaired concentration or indecisiveness” is one of the many symptoms of PPD.
- Thoughts of harming yourself: Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby are advanced signs of postpartum depression. This is called Postpartum psychosis, a rare and serious mental illness. This study found that it “occurs in 1 of 500 mothers, with rapid onset in the first 2–4 weeks after delivery. Postpartum psychosis includes confused thinking, mood swings, delusions, paranoia, disorganized behavior, poor judgment, and impaired functioning.” If this occurs it is a psychiatric emergency and needs medical attention immediately.
If you or anyone you know are displaying these signs or having thoughts of suicide, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662 4357 immediately to get help.