I know that a lot of women still keep this subject hush-hush, feeling as though they are less of a women if they experience or acknowledge it. I can honestly say from experience, that that is not the case: post partum depression (PPD) is real, it is not something you have any control over, and there is help for it.
Here are some signs that go hand-in-hand with PPD. If you or a friend or family member are experiencing any of these symptoms, consider talking to your OB/GYN about options and medications available to you.
Lack of Focus
You cry. You fold into yourself. Life became a total haze, and you may not be able to sleep, eat, or focus on anything . . . even your new baby. More than 80 percent of women suffer from a mild form of sadness, fear, anger or anxiety. Knowing this should help you understand that you are not alone.
I experienced PPD after both of my pregnancies. I remember telling my doctor that I was just so sad and that everything felt so hopeless. That immediately triggered several other questions for her to ask me, apparently hopelessness is one of the major symptoms. Hopelessness, combined with an inability to cope with daily activities and a lack of interest in much of anything, is about the best way to describe how PPD feels.
The Time Frame
It’s common for women to experience the “baby blues;” a period of about two weeks after birth where they have major mood swings, crying, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty concentrating and sleeping. If it goes away within those two weeks, it doesn’t require any treatment.
On the other hand, if the symptoms continue or get worse over several months, then it is considered PPD. If a woman isn’t diagnosed or treated right away it can last for a year or more, and by then women are less likely to connect their depression to childbirth.
You don’t have to suffer alone or in silence . . . help is available! Many women resist medication because of the stigma still attached to “mental illness.”
The risks of not seeking treatment greatly outweigh the side effects of medication. Some medications can even be safely taken while breastfeeding, and I was actually on medication even though I was nursing. After talking with my doctor and doing some research on my own, I learned that the drugs do show up in breast milk, but in concentrations so low that doctors don’t believe they cause harm or long-lasting side effects.
Doctors typically start a patient off on the lowest dose. It may take several tries before you find the right medication and dosage, but once you find it, it is recommended that you stay on it for at least six months. Studies show that going off antidepressants too soon ups the risk of relapse . . . something that nobody wants to happen.
Have you or anybody that you know ever experienced PPD? Did you seek treatment immediately? Any words of advice for those going through it right now?