Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Postpartum depression and anxiety is so much more common than most people think. My goal with this post is to normalize postpartum depression and anxiety to decrease the stigma. Hopefully more exposure on the topic will make it so that anyone who needs help won’t be ashamed to ask for it.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 women suffer from either one of these disorders after birth. Women of every culture, age, income level and race can develop these disorders. Nobody is immune.
It is so important that we talk about this topic. The more it is talked about and in the mainstream media, the easier it will be for women to seek help. We can reduce the stigma by talking about the issue. So many women think they can “shake it off” or they think they are weak if they get help. That is not the case. Postpartum mental health issues are normal, and most often won’t go away without some sort of psychological and/or medical intervention.
Unfortunately, women are not routinely screened for this at their 6-week postpartum checkup with their obstetrician in Canada. It’s in their own hands to ask for help when they need it.
If you are suffering from postpartum depression you are not alone, and there is help out there.
The Number One Obstetrical Complication
The following are stats taken from the World Maternal Mental Health Day Website.
The stats are the same worldwide. One out of 5 women suffers from a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder (PMAD). PMADs include postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, postpartum bipolar, and postpartum psychosis. This makes it the number one obstetrical complication. Would you ever have guessed it was that common?
Because of the stigma related to mental health disorders, 70% of women hide their symptoms.
This is huge because if women are hiding their symptoms, they are definitely not seeking treatment!
Postpartum mood disorders don’t just affect moms. Research has shown that 1 out of 10 fathers can get it as well.
Almost all women have some changes in their mood after they give birth. This is most likely due to hormonal and overall life changes. About 70-80% of all women experience this. If you do, you might feel extreme mood changes, all from feeling very happy to being teary and crying for no reason. You might feel irritable, restless, or anxious. Even poor concentration or insomnia. All these things can be totally normal. The baby blues should go away within the first 2 weeks after your baby’s birth. If they don’t you might have something more serious going on.
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
The symptoms of postpartum depression can look quite similar to those of the baby blues. You might have a depressed or irritable mood. You might have lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy. Very common are feelings of low energy and poor concentration. In worst case scenarios you might have thoughts of harming yourself or the baby.
This is why it is so important to get help as soon as you feel these symptoms overwhelming you. You don’t want it to get to a point where you feel there is no way out.
These symptoms can lead to you not taking care of yourself or your baby and can affect your physical health. They can also cause it for you to have difficulties bonding with your baby or difficulties in relationships or at work. In severe cases, some women resort to self-medicating and use recreational drugs or alcohol, which can even further destroy your relationships.
Getting Help – What is Out There?
Talk to someone about your feelings. That is the first step. I think a lot of women bottle up their emotions and pretend that everything is fine even when it isn’t. Women have a vision of motherhood, thinking that they should enjoy every minute of it, when in fact that is not usually the case.
It’s ok to admit that you are struggling.
It’s ok to ask for help.
Often times the partner (if there is one) is the first to notice postpartum depression. That is why in my postpartum teaching about mental health, I almost always teach it to the husband or partner so that they are aware of the signs and symptoms as soon as they appear.
You can talk to anyone. Your partner, friend, social worker, public health nurse or family doctor. If you are having a mental health emergency or crisis go to the nearest emergency department. You will be referred to a specialist if needed.
It’s important for you to know that these disorders can be treated and that treatment will help both you and your baby. If you go see a specialist that treat postpartum mental health disorders they can help you with many things.
They will most likely provide you with education about self-care, sleep and nutrition. They will provide education to your partner and/or family. If you see a psychiatrist they might want to prescribe medication for your disorder. This might only be for a short period of time, depending on the severity of your depression or anxiety. Talk therapy might be one of the treatments provided or even group therapy.
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Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, if not more so. How are you going to enjoy your beautiful life with your new baby without having good mental health? Physical wellbeing is not really worth much if enjoyment is taken out of your life.
If you’re brave enough, I’d love to hear your stories about postpartum depression. It’s all good and well to spew our stats and information, but if women can read real experiences, I think it is way more valuable.
Looking forward to hearing from you! You can send me your story through the form on my contact page.