Many associate the birth of a child with extreme positive emotions – after all, having a child is often called “the miracle of life.” Thus, when mothers experience not-so positive emotions after giving birth, this is seen as abnormal. People assume that this is the fault of the mother and a sign of negligence – although this couldn’t be further from the truth.
New mothers can often experience periods of extreme depression just after giving birth, as well as extreme periods of anxiety. This does not have any bearing on their ability to parent a child in the future, and is instead indicative of a disorder that three million mothers experience every year – postpartum depression and/or anxiety.
While experiencing postpartum depression, or PPD, is not indicative of a mother’s ability to raise a child, it can be dangerous for a mother to experience this depression without treatment. In extreme cases, mothers have harmed, neglected or alienated their children because of untreated PPD.
The good news is that PPD is entirely treatable – but it’s extremely important to recognize the disorder early on in order to prevent worst case scenarios and to benefit the health of the mother. Even in cases where a mother gets over PPD naturally, developing postpartum depression can indicate someone will develop a more long-term form of depression in the future.
Understanding the Hidden Signs
First and foremost, it’s important that not only a mother know the signs of postpartum depression, but also all of those around her. Because the mother is the one experiencing the symptoms, she may not fully comprehend their severity due to bias and inability to fully understand what she’s going through.
There is an easily painted picture of PPD that involves a mother simply exuding the qualities of major depression after giving birth, but some common symptoms go ignored because they aren’t included in this broad-brush portrait of postpartum depression.
Many associate insomnia related to giving birth to having an upended schedule because of a baby’s unregulated sleep and feeding schedule. However, if insomnia persists, this can be indicative of PPD. A partner, husband, boyfriend, or family member – someone immediately close to the mother – should attempt to keep track of her sleeping and offer aide where possible.
Loss of Appetite
From an outside perspective, a new mother eating less can be seen as an attempt to lose baby weight, but the reality is that a total loss of appetite is a very big sign of depression.
Another hidden symptom is extreme irritability. Feeding a baby at all hours and dealing with the responsibility of a child is enough to make someone irritable, and thus a moody mother is something brushed off. However, mothers experiencing postpartum depression can sometimes take this to an extreme.
The More Visible Symptoms
One of the biggest signs of a mother experiencing postpartum depression is not being able to bond with her newborn. Because depression limits someone’s ability to connect, empathize or sympathize, a new mother experiencing PPD can have an extremely difficult time forming an emotional connection with her child. In some cases, because this is something women assume to be a simple task, being unable to forge this bond makes a mother feel inadequate and worthless, creating a depressive cycle.
This is a more visible symptom – in other words, those around a mother who shows disinterest in bonding with her baby can see this and understand that something is wrong. Visible symptoms can sometimes be the most important way a person can suspect PPD is at play in order to suggest a mother be officially diagnosed.
A new mother’s emotional response prior to pregnancy should be closely examined. Common emotions exhibited with PPD include guilt, hopelessness, panic, anxiety and anger.
Postpartum anxiety is a different diagnosis, but it can often go hand in hand with postpartum depression, much like the disorders can be extremely comorbid outside of pregnancy diagnoses. This diagnosis involves a mother experiencing extreme symptoms of anxiety, paranoia or even OCD-like symptoms prior to giving birth.
Mothers who experience either diagnosis often have a cognitive lack of concentration. Without the proper treatment, the disorder makes it hard for mothers to focus, making them lose focus and become forgetful. This symptom only becomes more severe with the presence of insomnia.
The good news is that PPD is entirely treatable. When someone recognizes that a mother is experiencing a possible occurrence of PPD, it is suggested that they talk to the mother about this worry and suggest talking to a doctor about the problem as soon as possible.
Depending on the severity of the PPD, a doctor may just prescribe a self-care regimen and diet change. Other forms of PPD maintenance include therapies, medication for mothers who aren’t breast feeding and potentially specialist treatment of the problem persists.