Postpartum depression is a syndrome affecting as many as 1 in 10 new mothers. It can be a quiet syndrome, suffered in silence by those affected, bringing shame and guilt along with it. Most mothers with the symptoms of postpartum depression feel isolated and broken at a time when just the opposite should be true.
In this guide, we will explore the common symptoms of postpartum depression, the best type of treatment, steps you should take to investigate it further and some specific resources to get you on a path back to the real you.
Common symptoms of postpartum depression include: anhedonia (the lost of all interest in pleasurable activities), anxiety, racing thoughts, irritability, irrational fears, episodes of crying, feelings of worthlessness, disconnect from baby, and lack of energy or motivation. These symptoms may show up immediately after the baby is born, but it is not unlikely for the symptoms of this disorder to rear their ugly head up to a year after delivery.
If you are experiencing severe symptoms or have had thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, please call 911 to seek immediate assistance.
Early intervention is best, so don’t wait to get help. The following ingredients make for a successful treatment plan for mothers suffering from postpartum depression.
1) Support. Don’t underestimate the importance of this element in your healing. Reach out, talk to loved ones about what you are experiencing. This is a hard step as you may likely feel shame for not embodying the stereotypical glowing new mother. Your loved ones care about you and will provide the tangible (like helping with laundry) and emotional support you need during this process.
2) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This type of therapy focuses on changing faulty cognitions or thoughts as a means of transforming behavior. Treatment will include very concrete exercises that will help you eliminate those irrational, fearful, self-blaming and debilitating thoughts. You may be asked to keep a journal, practice relaxation training or thought stopping and face your fears using a technique called exposure and response prevention. You will work at your own pace and can include a loved one in the process if you desire. Find a treatment provider that specializes in this form of treatment for best results.
3) Medication. In some cases, medication may be necessary to alleviate some of the symptoms. Many mothers feel a sense of shame or failure when told that medication is necessary. Please know that if medication is needed, it is likely temporary and reflects only positively on you as a mother because you are demonstrating that you are willing to do whatever it takes to care for yourself and your baby
Steps to Take
1) Tell someone. This is the most important step and will help simply by the fact that you can share the burden and do not need to suffer quietly.
2) Get blood work taken. Contact your PCP and tell him or her about the symptoms you are experiencing. Tell your doctor that you would like to have your thyroid checked as well as your magnesium level as these conditions are common in post-delivery moms. Some case studies have found that even severe post partum psychosis can be the result of an imbalance in the thyroid.
3) Seek out professional help. If your PCP doesn’t have resources available, go to www.postpartum.net. Here you will find a host of resources including those specific to your area of the country. Simply click on “get help” and select your state. There you will be provided with the names and numbers of volunteers who are waiting to hear from you to provide support, guidance and resources to help you on this journey.
If you are suffering, don’t wait. Take the steps above to start on the journey back to the real you. The sooner you start the process, the sooner you will find the deep joy and peace you long for as a new mother.