Most new mothers will feel a version of the “baby blues” in the first few weeks after having a baby. It makes sense hormonally because of the vast amount of change in the woman’s body in a short period of time. Add to that the lack of sleep and other responsibilities of possibly taking care of other children and household duties, and getting “blue” seems rather normal.
But the The Office of Women’s Health, a government-sponsored program to promote health equity for women and girls, cautions that postpartum depression is more than just feeling down in the dumps but rather is a serious illness involving a woman’s brain.
She can feel sad, anxious, or empty and those feelings don’t go away or dissipate over time. It is estimated that 13 percent (more than one in ten mothers) will be diagnosed with depression during or after their pregnancies.
Many women expect to feel a certain way after having a child ... joy, happiness, love, and an instant connection with this tiny human being that has entered their life. They may be expecting too much.
It is physically tough to carry, birth, and care for a baby and mothers often don’t understand the toll it may take on them physically and mentally. Many women may be medically depressed but not actually know it. And since the stigma of depression is still ever-present, many women may not talk to others about their emotions because of feelings of shame and/or guilt.
The Office of Women’s Health describes the following symptoms of depression in mothers, and urges women who feel any of these symptoms for two weeks or more to contact their doctor.
Symptoms of depression:
• Feeling restless or moody and not sure why you feel that way
• Feeling sad, hopeless, and/or overwhelmed
• Crying a lot over things that logically you know don’t merit tears
• Lacking energy or motivation to do anything
• Eating too little or too much
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Not being able to focus on anything or making decisions
• Having memory problems