After childbirth, a new mother experiences a wide range of emotions. They may feel joy, excitement, fear, sadness, or a combination of them all. Often described as “baby blues,” it is common for new mothers to have feelings of sadness. For most women, baby blues decrease gradually over the first few weeks following childbirth.
A woman goes through an incredible amount of hormonal, physical, emotional, and psychological changes throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Her entire world has been completely and thoroughly rearranged pretty rapidly. It can be a lot for a new mother to process.
Postpartum Depression or Baby Blues?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental health challenge that occurs in about one in seven new mothers. PPS is caused by hormonal changes, stress, and fatigue and can severely impact a woman’s ability to function normally. Due to all the negative impacts on a new mother’s mental health, it can also affect the bond between her and her new baby.
There are two main ways you can distinguish postpartum depression from baby blues:
#1. Pay Attention
The first thing to pay attention to is the severity of the symptoms that a new mother is experiencing. The symptoms of baby blues are much milder compared to PPD.
#2. Evaluate the Length of Symptoms
The second aspect that distinguishes PPD from baby blues is the length of time that symptoms are experienced. As her hormones start to level out and she finds a steady routine in her new life, baby blues naturally fade away after a few weeks. PPD symptoms do not resolve themselves and often get worse over time.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
PPD can present in a variety of ways and can be confusing for a new mother. Experiencing PPD can cause a vicious cycle of negative thoughts and feelings.
If there are concerns for you or someone you love, some symptoms to watch for include the following:
- Depressed mood or unpredictable mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby and feeling disconnected from your life
- Extreme changes to your eating or sleeping habits
- Experiencing irritability, anxiety, or panic attacks
- Having trouble thinking clearly or concentrating
- Experiencing low energy or restlessness
- Excessive crying or extreme sadness
When to Seek Professional Help
Many new mothers have a challenging time deciding to get help for their depression symptoms. They may feel guilty or ashamed that their experience with motherhood isn’t going as they expected. PPD can be so severe that a new mother can’t think clearly enough to realize that they are struggling so profoundly. A new mother might fear that others won’t believe them.
It can be extremely dangerous if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with the symptoms of PPD. Recent surveys show that new mothers have a high predilection toward alcohol and drug use. New mothers with PPD may be at a higher risk for developing substance use disorder. If you are struggling with addiction, now is the time to seek professional treatment.
As with any mental health challenge, you need to seek immediate help if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others. Call your doctor for an emergency appointment, reach out to a supportive friend or family member, or you may even call 911 if necessary. PPD can become very serious very quickly, so if you feel like you are losing control, you need to reach out for help.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is treated differently in each individual. You will need to work with your doctor to examine the type and severity of your symptoms. Discuss treatment options with your doctor and work with them to find a treatment plan that works for you. Treatment options may include anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Even if you are breastfeeding your infant, there are medications that are safe for you and your baby. You may also benefit from psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy and support group participation.
Postpartum Depression and Substance Use Disorder
The treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as PPD and substance use disorder, can be implemented at the same time. It will likely include a combination of therapy and medication, and resources designed to help you build strong connections. You will need a community of support that you can rely on during treatment and recovery.
When you are struggling with a mental health disorder, it can make your daily responsibilities seem overwhelming. This is especially true if you are a new mother. There is nothing wrong with asking for help if you are struggling. Getting the support you need will be the best thing for you and your new baby. When you are physically and mentally well, you will be better able to adapt to your role as a mother, and this will help you enjoy the experience of being a mother.
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health challenge, such as postpartum depression, it is easy to fall into addictive behaviors to cope with your symptoms. At Spero Recovery Center, we are committed to providing a unique approach to addiction treatment. Our program is peer-run and peer-led, which provides the opportunity for the Spero community to lean on each other in times of need. Our women’s residential program can provide the resources you need while giving you the chance to make strong connections with others. Call Spero today at (303) 351-7888 for more information about our women’s program and how we can support you in treatment, recovery, and beyond.