Most people are familiar with the term, “postpartum depression”, which is a state of depression occurring in the weeks and months following a woman giving birth. The term “postpartum depression” is something of a misnomer though, as many women experience worry, anxiety, and even mania after having their babies. These symptoms are all contained under the umbrella term “postpartum depression” even when women aren’t experiencing actual depression. This can lead to women not seeking the help they need. Hopefully my experience with postpartum anxiety will help lead women to seek help for postpartum depression, even if they’re not feeling sad after having a baby.
After my first daughter was born, I was on top of the world. I was so happy I’d had the homebirth I’d always dreamed of. I was healthy, she was healthy, and I had a supportive husband. Things were wonderful for the first few days. However, I was barely sleeping. This is fairly common, as a newborn baby wakes many times a night. Then, I started feeling anxious. I worried that if I slept, my baby might die from SIDS. I worried that the housework wasn’t being taken care of properly. I worried about whether I was a good mom. I was in a constant state of anxiety. I just became anxious about everything, which made me sleep even less, which made me more on edge. I didn’t feel depressed at all, but rather, fell into more of a hyper anxious state. It wasn’t long before the sleep deprivation after having a baby caught up with me. Three weeks after my daughter was born, I had to spend a couple of days in the hospital recovering from extreme sleep deprivation. I was informally diagnosed with “postpartum depression”, and it was explained to me that it’s a blanket term they use to describe postpartum emotional issues of all kinds.
I feel that sleep deprivation ultimately led to my postpartum anxiety, but hormones played a big role as well. At first, I felt ashamed and as if I had failed my daughter and husband. This isn’t true, of course. I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just a new mother who was nervous about getting everything ‘right’. Although postpartum depression can reoccur, I’m happy to say I didn’t experience it at all with my second child. Here are some tips for new moms who may be dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety:
Get Plenty of Sleep and Proper Nutrition
This is key. Sleep and rest as much as you can. Your mother’s advice to “sleep when the baby sleeps” is wise. Enlist help if needed, even hiring a mother’s helper to watch your other children while you rest with baby. Eat healthy, whole foods rich in vitamins. Avoid caffeine, stimulants, and sugar which will help naturally balance hormones after giving birth.
Most moms experience ‘the baby blues’ after giving birth due to hormonal changes. Many women even experience some worry or nervousness after having a baby. If it gets to the point where it’s dominating your thoughts or impairs function or quality of life, it’s time to talk to someone.
Talk about Your Feelings and Thoughts
Don’t keep things inside. Talk about how you’re feeling, especially to your spouse, midwife or doctor, or to other parents who’ve been through it. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Millions of women experience hormonal changes after having a baby or lack that interfere with every day life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. If you’re having intrusive thoughts (thoughts of harming yourself or the baby), please reach out immediately. No one is going to judge or condemn you — it’s a brave act to admit you need help.
Medication Isn’t The Only Treatment
If you are concerned about medication remember, in many cases it’s only temporary. I only took medication very briefly to control acute symptoms. It’s not the only treatment. Often times, rest, proper nutrition, therapy, and time is enough to heal symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression. However, in some cases medication may be utilized for a brief period of time, and that’s okay.
Postpartum depression affects many women, but it’s important to remember it doesn’t always manifest in the form of depression. If you’re feeling anxious and worried to the point where it’s interfering with your thoughts or life, please talk to someone. You’ll be glad you did.