The birth of a child is a miracle: new human life is created. The birth of a child is magical.
And, it’s freakish, really, if you’ve ever seen it happen… an entire body comes out of another body.
Upon the birth of a child, a mother’s eyes, glazed over with tears, yes from pushing, but then from joy, are opened to a new purpose in life: motherhood. Her heart is opened to a love she never knew existed…
And then, life is grey. She sees the world in shadow, even in bright sunlight, 12 hours north of her 3 a.m. breastfeeding. The fluffy, air-light diapers with pretty pastel pictures on them weigh down her hands. They are so heavy to her she can change her baby – just barely. Or maybe not at all. The diapers, her hands, she… everything is so heavy. And the heaviness just won’t lift.
Sometimes having a baby – essentially a helpless miracle – can result in a helpless, suffering mother – a mother struggling with Postpartum Depression.
Related: Postpartum Fathers
The summer months (August, then July) are the most popular birth months in the U.S. Of the mothers who will give birth this summer, (or anytime this year), as much as 15% will develop Postpartum Depression. Fortunately, there is help.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is the most common complication of childbirth, according to Dr. Shoshana Bennett, psychologist and author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies. Just as there’s no shame of gestational diabetes, there’s no reason to be ashamed of Postpartum Depression, Dr. Bennett explains. “This is not a character weakness or a personality flaw.”
What is PPD?
PPD is a form of depression experienced by a mother anytime within a year, (although it is seen most often within the first three months), of giving birth.
Common symptoms include: anxiety, low self esteem, frequent crying, change in appetite, nighttime insomnia, loss of energy, fatigue, and hopelessness.
“If you ask a woman with PPD, ‘How are you doing?’” notes Dr. Bennett, “she will answer to the gist of ‘I’ve lost myself.’ ‘I don’t know who this is. This is not me.’ And, she doesn’t see an end to this.”
How is PPD different from “The Baby Blues”?
While “The Baby Blues” are transient (lasting less than 2 weeks) and mild, per Dr. Bennett, PPD lasts longer than two weeks and is severe enough to affect a mother’s daily functioning.
While anyone can get PPD, factors that can increase a mother’s risk include:
- History of psychiatric illness
- History of PMS or PMD
- Mood changes from birth control, which can indicate a sensitivity to hormone shifts
- Isolation, poor partner support
Related: Is Crying Out Dangerous for Kids?
How is PPD Treated?
Dr. Bennett recommends an “individualized wellness strategy” that includes:
- “Chunks of uninterrupted nighttime sleep – even breastfeeding mothers can get these if they’re willing to pump and somebody else on duty gives the bottle.”
- Nutrition: “Nibbling protein every 3 hours or so keeps the blood sugar even.”
- Physical support (someone to give you a break)
- Emotional support
- Time in the sunlight
- Speaking with a specialist who understands perinatal mood and anxiety disorders
- Realistic expectations: Dr. Bennett advises throwing out myths such as, “This is the best time of my life”, “I shouldn’t have needs”, and, “Breastfeeding is wonderful.” A more realistic thought?: “This is bootcamp.”
- Prevention: Have a plan of action in place before the baby comes. Know, for example, who’s going to be available to help.
Having a baby is life-changing. Change, while it can be wonderful, is challenging for everyone. Knowing what to expect and enlisting support and help can make change – even changing, say the “poopiest” of diapers, easier and happier.
More from GalTime.com:
- Top 10 Pediatric Myths
- New Baby Sleep Strategies
- Sippy Cups, Bottles, Pacifiers Could Pose Health Risk
- 5 of the Craziest/Coolest Baby Gifts
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Anna Katzman is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, certified in child and adolescent mental health and a freelance writer and an intern for GalTime. You can visit her blog for additional information.