Updated: Nov 6
I was one of the lucky ones. After delivering my twin daughters 15 months ago, I had a relatively easy time getting back into shape and dealing with any postpartum depression that came my way. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have any complications; in fact, breastfeeding was one of them. For me — and for many women out there — breastfeeding can be difficult, painful, and emotionally draining even when you’re not struggling with PPD. Here are some things I wish someone had told me before this happened: Contact: Revive Therapeutic Services
Every mom will have her own individual experience with postpartum depression.
Depression is a complex condition, with many causes. It may be triggered by hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, mental illness (such as anxiety or bipolar disorder), or lack of social support. Other times depression can be caused by a traumatic birth experience and may not emerge until the baby begins to crawl and walk.
The point is that every mom will have her own individual experience with postpartum depression (PPD). Some moms will struggle more than others; some may only have mild symptoms that resolve quickly after their babies are born; some might never experience any PPD at all. However, it’s important for you to know that just because you don’t fit into these categories doesn’t mean there isn’t something wrong—there likely is! Don’t give up until you find the help you need or feel like your symptoms aren’t improving after three months postpartum.
Postpartum depression can manifest itself in different ways.
Think about it: Your body and mind are in a state of flux, and how you feel about this transition depends on so many factors. Postpartum depression can be mild or severe, short-term or long-lasting, situational or chronic. It can manifest itself physically (tiredness; lack of appetite; difficulty sleeping) or emotionally (anger; feelings of isolation; sadness). And for some women—and this is where I belong—it’s both! In other words: Your experience with postpartum depression may be very different from that of your friend, who felt overwhelmed by her baby’s colic but had no trouble bonding with her child. Or the next woman over whose struggle was focused more on anxiety and panic attacks than mood swings. Or yet another who describes herself as “just happy” to finally have her baby boy here after months spent waiting patiently through all those ultrasounds.
The point is this: You needn’t worry that any one symptom means that your experience isn’t valid.* Instead, try focusing on what might help alleviate symptoms without adding more stressors into an already stressful time.*
Not every woman experiences the “baby blues.”
Not every woman experiences the “baby blues.”
If you’re wondering what the “baby blues” are, it’s a small percentage of women who experience a brief period of very intense mood swings following delivery. This can happen within one day to two weeks after birth and will likely include feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiety or anger. The symptoms usually last no longer than two weeks, but they can be severe enough to interfere with daily life.
Many women have heard about postpartum depression (PPD), but not everyone knows that some women may also experience “postpartum psychosis”—a more serious condition where their symptoms become so severe that they require psychiatric care in order to prevent harm to themselves or others. Symptoms include hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there) and delusions (believing things that aren’t true).
You can build a support system of family and friends who have dealt with postpartum depression themselves.
Talk to your family and friends. The best way to find a support system is by asking the people you know who have dealt with postpartum depression themselves. Ask them what they did to get through it, whether they would recommend medication or therapy, if they have any tips or tricks that helped them and if they have any advice for you.
You can also consider a professional counselor or therapist (outside of your OBGYN) for guidance on managing PPD symptoms. They may be able to help you strategize ways of coping with PPD over time and set up an action plan for getting better in the long term.
You should seek professional help if you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression.
You should seek professional help if you think you might be experiencing postpartum depression. There are a lot of reasons to avoid seeking help, and they’re all valid. But if you can’t cope, it’s time to get some help.
If the symptoms don’t get better after two weeks, see a doctor. If your moods aren’t stable, even with medication and therapy, that’s a warning sign too—again, see a doctor (or call one).
And if there is any doubt at all about whether or not something will harm yourself or your baby? Seek professional assistance immediately! Do NOT ignore this warning sign because of anything I’ve said here—just do whatever it takes for both of you to stay safe.
Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling.
Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling.
If you have a partner, it may be difficult to open up about your struggles and emotions. However, this is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for your relationship with your partner. It’s important that both parents are on the same page regarding taking care of each other and their child during this time. You should also let them know what kind of help they can provide so they don’t feel left out or unprepared when trying to give assistance.
Postpartum depression often begins during pregnancy, but many women don’t get treatment because they’re afraid to tell their doctor how they’re really feeling.
If you’re feeling like you’re drowning, it’s time to tell your doctor. Most people don’t realize that depression during pregnancy and the first year after giving birth is extremely common—in fact, it’s estimated that up to 19 percent of women experience postpartum depression (PPD). Yet many women stay silent about their symptoms because they’re afraid of what their doctors will think or say.
It’s honestly not as bad as you might think: Your doctor isn’t going to judge you for having these thoughts, and he or she will be able to help if he or she knows how serious things have become. Tell him/her how you’ve been feeling recently—it can be hard for someone who hasn’t experienced PPD before to recognize signs of depression themselves—and make sure he/she understands why telling him/her about them is important in getting treatment.
Depending on his/her specialty and where in the country s/he practices medicine, there are several different ways a doctor can treat PPD. Some types of therapy focus on teaching new mothers how stress affects their bodies; others provide individualized support groups where moms share experiences and advice with one another; still others teach women how best to care for themselves so they can take better care of their children once they’re born (and vice versa). The most important thing is finding out which treatment method works best for both mommy and baby!
Sometimes, you will feel alone in this journey — even if you’ve created a strong support system.
I wish someone had told me that sometimes I would feel alone in this journey. No matter how many support systems I created, no matter how many people I had around me, and no matter how much they loved me, there were times when I would feel like it was just me against the world.
This feeling is often strongest at night when you are in bed all alone with your thoughts. You may start to wonder if anyone else has ever felt this way or if you are the only one dealing with so much pain and sadness.
Loved ones may not understand what you’re going through, so sometimes they’ll try to rationalize it away (e.g., “You’re just tired,” or, “Everyone gets depressed after having a baby”).
It’s important to remember that you are not alone.
It’s okay to ask for help.
You can’t control your feelings, but you can control how you respond to them.
You can’t control other people’s reactions.
Postpartum depression isn’t your fault; it’s not something you brought on yourself because you were being lazy or didn’t care enough.
I wish someone had told me that postpartum depression isn’t your fault, and it’s not something you brought on yourself because you were being lazy or didn’t care enough. You are not alone. There are so many other women who feel this way, and they don’t deserve to be blamed for their struggles.
It is important to remember that postpartum depression is an illness, not a weakness or flaw in character. The way it works is that hormones change drastically while pregnant, and then there are more drastic hormonal changes after giving birth which can trigger or worsen symptoms of depression if one already suffers from this condition (and let’s face it—who doesn’t?).
Doctors can prescribe medication that’s safe to take while breastfeeding.
While it’s true that some antidepressants can pass through breast milk, there are two things you need to know: 1) the FDA has approved drugs that are safe for breastfeeding mothers and 2) not all antidepressants are bad for your baby.
In fact, your doctor can prescribe a specific-dosage antidepressant that’s safe to take while breastfeeding—and it won’t affect how much milk your body produces or how much milk actually gets into your baby’s system. If you’re worried about taking an antidepressant at all, let alone one that is OK for breastfeeding moms, talk with your doctor first.
You can breastfeed while taking antidepressants.
>You can breastfeed while taking antidepressants.
>Most antidepressants are safe for breastfeeding, but some aren’t. If you’re concerned about the safety of a certain medication, talk to your doctor. It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to postpartum depression treatment. Some drugs may work better than others depending on your symptoms and overall mental health history, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or try different options until you find the right fit for you and your family!
The complications surrounding postpartum depression aren’t always psychological. Sometimes, there are physical complications that make it harder for moms to heal after giving birth.
While you might be aware of the psychological effects postpartum depression can have, there are also physical complications that can worsen if left untreated. The stress and strain of having a new baby means that moms are often sleep-deprived, which can lead to other health issues like headaches and heartburn. And when those problems don’t get resolved—or even worse, when they go undiagnosed—they can become chronic conditions.
In addition to these physical side effects, postpartum depression also creates mental health issues like anxiety and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). These conditions may not seem directly connected to pregnancy or childbirth but can actually be passed down genetically from mother to child during gestation. You may want to talk with your doctor about getting tested for these genetic markers before becoming pregnant so that you know how much risk your baby has in being born with them as well!
I hope that by sharing what I’ve learned about postpartum depression, it’ll help other mothers in their journey. I know from personal experience how isolating and scary it can be to deal with this feeling of despair. If you’re reading this, then you’re not alone—I’m here for you and ready to support any way I can.
Many factors may contribute to and compound postpartum depression:
If you think you may be battling postpartum depression, remember, you’re not alone. Book a session with a therapist in Providence, Rhode Island or Sommerville, Massachusetts office to understand a little bit more about it!