What do you envision when you picture your first moments with baby? Most likely, the image you see is one of pure bliss and celebration, bonding with your little one. Yet, when the time comes, juggling the unexpected responsibilities of a newborn coupled with serious sleep deprivation can leave new moms struggling to find time to take care of themselves.
Hormonal fluctuations can bring on intense emotions: mood swings, crying spells, anxiousness, and irritability, all symptoms of “the baby blues.” But when symptoms linger longer than a few weeks and inhibit normal daily activity and relationships or bonding with the baby, ProMedica OBGYN Dr. Jackie Vannuyen, MD, warns postpartum depression (PPD) is likely the culprit.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms of PPD is the first step in managing the situation. Vannuyen encourages moms to give themselves some slack. “Today with social media, there’s so much pressure to be the perfect mom, have the perfect household and know exactly what to do to have the perfect baby. There’s no such thing, and moms need to know that almost every other mom is feeling as they do– unsure, or less than perfect. I tell my patients, your baby wants you regardless, whether the laundry has been done or the house is clean. They want to be with you even if you haven’t taken a shower, made their nursery picture perfect, whether you use organic baby products or eat a pure-clean diet. It’s okay to admit you don’t feel great; you can be scared and unsure, you can feel fatigued and have feelings of sadness,” Vannuyen says.
Postpartum symptom checklist
A History of Depression
Women with underlying tendencies towards depression and anxiety may be particularly vulnerable to postpartum. “These women need to alert their provider during their pregnancy, so they both can be on the lookout for worsening symptoms and signs of PPD after delivery.”
Intense Mood Changes
“Any feelings or thoughts of sadness/anxiety that prevent normal activity and interaction with your baby/partner/spouse/family are common signs.” It’s also common for women with PPD to feel angry, have crying spells, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and even panic attacks.
Difficulty Bonding with Baby
PPD signs often include feelings of being alone/isolated, lack of interest in the baby, changes in eating and sleeping, trouble concentrating, and guilt (especially with the birth of subsequent children).”
Irrational Fear of Harm to Baby
Postpartum anxiety can result in feeling overwhelmed and incapable of caring for yourself or baby, or even fear of something bad happening to the baby. “Thoughts of hurting oneself or the baby are also, of course, very worrisome.”
There is Hope– Treatment for PPD
If you’re a new mom experiencing the above symptoms, the first step is speaking with your doctor; there are solutions. “It’s ok not to have that blissful new mom feeling. It means you’re human, and part of the up to 80 percent that experience postpartum blues or the 10-20 percent that experience PPD/PP anxiety. Talking therapy and permission to express how you feel can be healing. Cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation can also help. In some cases, antidepressant or anxiolytic medications may be needed, or even a combination of all the above,” Vannuyen assures. Above all, know you’re not alone, mama!