The signs of postpartum depression are important to understand when you’re preparing to have a baby. I was knocked off my feet by the condition when I had my first son. I expected to be deliriously happy when we brought him home. After all, my husband and I had planned for him and couldn’t wait for him to be born. The reality is that giving birth and being entirely responsible for a tiny human being can be overwhelming. Toss in the fluctuating hormones and the complete upheaval of your routine and you’re in for some life changes that can really affect you. Most women suffer the baby blues to some degree, but the signs of postpartum depression point to something more serious and something that should never be ignored. If you experience any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
1. Appetite Changes
In the throes of my issues, I would have been perfectly happy living on iced tea. Fortunately, good sense also told me that wasn’t good enough for my breastfeeding baby. Loss of appetite is one of the most common signs of postpartum depression. Having a newborn means you’re constantly busy, but the difference is having no desire to eat versus not finding the time to sit down for a meal.
2. Lack of Joy
I know – isn’t this the definition of depression? But, for women suffering postpartum, it’s the sudden loss of joy in the things that previously brought it that is concerning. For example, if you’ve always loved knitting, but suddenly don’t feel like indulging in your hobby after giving birth, postpartum depression may be to blame.
The bulk of my postpartum issues centered around anxiety. What if I forgot the baby in the car? What if the cat laid on his face? What if he wasn’t getting enough milk? The thoughts that ran a marathon through my head were enough to drive me bonkers. Anxiety over raising a child is normal, but always living on the verge of a catastrophic event isn’t. If you find yourself anxious at every moment, you should call your obstetrician for a chat.
4. Trouble Sleeping
Yes, having a newborn means you’ll be getting a significantly smaller number of clocked hours in bed than you’re used to. However, having postpartum depression can make the situation worse. The issue will be not being able to sleep when the opportunity arises. Or, in my case, falling asleep, but then waking up constantly on the alert for a problem. If your sleeping habits have changed dramatically with the arrival of your little one, it’s time to get yourself checked for depression.
Oh, the guilt that motherhood induces. My kids are all school age now, but not a day goes by when I don’t feel guilty about something. Maybe I don’t play with them enough or maybe they’ll need therapy because I can’t afford to take them to Hawaii for Spring Break. Yes, motherhood means you feel guilty, but postpartum depression makes it much worse. Whatever you’re feeling guilty about in the weeks to months after delivery, it may mean a problem that can be easily treated. Don’t suffer in silence.
6. Suicidal or Homicidal Thoughts
We’ve all read the devastating stories of mothers who kill themselves or their babies due to postpartum depression. Keep in mind that it’s very rare, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have thoughts of ending it. Fortunately, I never experienced this side of postpartum depression, but if you ever have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call 911 or turn to your spouse immediately.
In rare instances, postpartum depression can trigger psychosis. This is very scary and should be considered an emergency that requires immediate attention. Hallucinations, delusions, extreme confusion, paranoia and thoughts or actions to hurt yourself or your baby are the hallmarks of postpartum psychosis. Get help right away if you feel any of these symptoms.
Even with all my years in college and grad school studying psychology, I wasn’t prepared for the mental challenges brought on by childbirth. Did you suffer from postpartum depression? There’s a certain stigma to the condition, but you should never ignore the signs. I don’t want to scare pregnant moms with this information, but being prepared is important. What do you think?