***This post is not written with the intention to diagnose, but merely to provide information. Please schedule an appointment to further discuss diagnoses and implication of diagnoses…
Typical Pregnancy vs. Prenatal Depression Symptoms:
It is important to note that about 33% of the time, episodes of depression actually begin during pregnancy. So, we must begin opening up this dialogue well before the postpartum period with mamas.
How do we tell the difference between typical pregnancy hormones and prenatal depression?
Typical Pregnancy symptoms:
- Changing mood
- Normal self esteem
- Sleep disruptions due to bladder or heartburn – but ultimately can sleep
- Tired, but rest restores energy
- Joy and anticipation of baby with appropriate levels of worry
- Appetite increases
Prenatal Depression symptoms:
- Unchanging feeling of gloom or emotional heaviness
- Low self esteem and feelings of guilt
- Inability to sleep with early A.M. awakenings (not due to bladder or heartburn)
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or intentions
- Tired and rest does not restore energy
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Lack of appetite
If you or a loved one identifies more with Prenatal Depression, talk with your OBGYN or a licensed counselor about intervention early on! Early detection and intervention can help prevent or curb PPD.
Baby Blues vs. PPD Signs and Symptoms:
60-80% of new moms experience baby blues.
Baby blues is a 2 day to 2 week span of feeling sort of depressed due to hormone fluctuations after birth. These feelings often peek 2 to 5 days after delivery and are unrelated to stress or psychiatric history.
In my opinion, the idea of Baby Blues can overshadow the diagnoses of PPD. Given the statistics, we often allow PPD to go untreated or ignored because we assume ladies are experiencing Baby Blues.
Baby Blues Symptoms:
- Feeling overwhelmed with new role as mama
- Feeling uncertain
- Changing mood
- Predominant mood is happiness, though she may experience bouts of sadness or anxiety
- Fatigue and inability to sleep (usually due to baby)
- Lasts no longer than 2 weeks post delivery
Postpartum Depression Symptoms:
- Unexplained physical complaints
- Suicidal thoughts
- Appetite changes
- Sleep disturbances (key indicator of PPD: unable to sleep when baby sleeps)
- Poor concentration/focus
- Irritable and angry
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt and shame
- Lack of feelings toward baby
- Inability to take care of self or family
- Loss of interest in pleasurable and joyful activities
- Anxious and overwhelmed
- Most commonly peaks 3 months after birth – though symptomatic before and later. Standard diagnosis states these symptoms occur within 12 months of delivery.
If Baby Blues feels like running to your mailbox through thick mud, PPD feels like running a marathon through wet cement. with a broken ankle.
Many times these mamas do not wear their condition outwardly.
Often they do their best to put on make-up, take care of their home, and force a smile, feeling a moral, relational and spiritual obligation to do so. Sometimes cleaning their home is a form of coping.
Surrounded by platitudes of, “this too shall pass,” – “it gets better” – “just sleep when the baby is sleeping” – “you have a happy, healthy baby and that’s what matters” – “you’re just tired” – “what a beautiful blessing your baby is!”- “It’s normal to worry as a new parent”…mamas feel buried under the overt expectations of society that they should be glowing or, at the very least, thankful.
Mamas with PPD are unwilling and unable to admit they feel contrary to what society says they should feel. In fact, these platitudes often cause their anger and depression to manifest in the quiet spaces of their mind. In isolation: the most dangerous place for these mamas.
This means the key players in detecting and supporting those who are suffering are actually friends and family. I will write more specifics on supporting your loved later.
If you are a mama of a new baby, please consult this screening tool to see if you mayhave PPD. Consult your midwife or OBGYN if you have any concerns at all!
It is important to note that screening tools screen and do not diagnose. They simply help to inform us if a potential diagnosis exists. One must consult a mental health professional or doctor/midwife for an official diagnosis and to discuss intervention.
Common intervention for PPD includes therapy and medication. There are medications that mamas can safely consume while pregnant and breastfeeding!
There are some alternative and complementary interventions including: relaxation and imagery, herbal medicine/homeopathy, dietary supplements, acupuncture, aromatherapy, light therapy, and Omega 3s. Many of these treatments, though empirically based and effective, take longer to work.
For more severe cases of PPD, a prescribed medication is often required.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, arrangements can be made (if safe) that include you remaining with your newborn and/or pumping regularly to maintain a breastfeeding relationship, if that is important to you. Do not remain silent for fear of being hospitalized, separated from your baby, stigmatized, or requiring medication.
At this point, there are only 3 hospital inpatient units I could find that specialize in perinatal mental health and allow mother and baby to be together:
There are a growing number of reputable outpatient programs in operation throughout the U.S, too.
It actually doesn’t have to be miserable. Even with the sleep deprivation and transitions, happiness is possible. It can be better.
PSI’s Helpline: 800-944-4773 ~ A line where mamas, their partners, and their family can call and ask questions. They will be connected with resources, including therapists. Every first Monday, fathers can call this line to be part of a conversation regarding how to support mamas with PPD.
PSI’S Text line: 503-894-9453 ~ Sometimes you just want to cry through the conversation and not talk. This line is available to struggling mamas for support and help.