5 warning signs that could mean you’re dealing with postpartum depression
According to the American Psychological Association, one in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD) after the arrival of their baby. As we enter into Maternal Mental Health Week — April 30th to May 5th — it’s important to share the warning signs of postpartum depression so that mothers, babies, and the friends and family who love them can recognize the symptoms and seek the help they need.
Dr. Patricia De Marco, Medical Director of the Maternal Mental Health Program at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, CA, shared with us the five major warning signs of postpartum depression.
"There are vast hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and after birth," Dr. De Marco told HelloGiggles, in regards to why PPD is so common amongst new mothers. "Some of these hormones can directly or indirectly cause mood changes. This is a normal and likely evolutionary phenomenon. However, mental health does not occur in a vacuum. There are psychological and social factors, too, that make the biological ones express themselves. Part of it is nature and a big portion of it is nurture."
Although women who have struggled with depression and/or anxiety in the past are at a greater risk for developing PPD, PPD can affect anyone. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness about the warning signs of PPD. If any of the below signs sound familiar in regards to you or someone you love, it’s time to seek professional help.
1Constant tearfulness or sadness most of the day, every day.
Feeling sad or teary-eyed following the birth of one’s baby is completely normal, Dr. De Marco explains. Many mothers experience this phenomenon called “baby blues” or “postpartum blues,” and it typically goes away after two weeks. But if this feeling intensifies and lingers for more than two weeks, a mother may be experiencing PPD and professional treatment is needed.
2Excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness.
Dr. De Marco says that a mother experiencing PPD might feel guilty about a variety of unrelated things, such as "being a good parent, birth experience based on your expectations, bonding properly with your baby, going back to work, marital expectations, work performance, body image, nutrition, and breastfeeding, among others."
3Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy.
This sign is fairly self-explanatory. If a mother has no feelings towards activities or hobbies she used to enjoy — including meals, Dr. De Marco adds — PPD might be at work.
4Lack of sleep or too much sleep.
Dr. De Marco notes that lack of sleep is common after welcoming a new baby into the household. But if mom is not able to sleep while baby is sleeping, or if mom is sleeping throughout the day while baby is up, crying, or in need of attention, it’s advised that she seeks the help of a mental health professional.
5Feelings of hopelessness.
"Most of the time, moms describe this feeling as 'being trapped' or having 'no way out,'" Dr. De Marco says. "This may be accompanied with negative thoughts 'as if something terrible is going to happen.'"
These thoughts alone are cause for concern and should be brought to a mental health professional. But in the event that these thoughts of hopelessness turn into suicidal thoughts, call 911 immediately or go to the nearest emergency room, Dr. De Marco adds.
And never hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 to reach out for immediate help.