Postpartum depression, like other mental illnesses, does not discriminate. You recently had a baby, one that you probably spent months dreaming about and preparing to welcome. That does not prevent it. You believe you should be the happiest you have ever been. That does not prevent it. You love this new baby more than you have ever loved anything. Still, you can’t prevent it. At some moments, you feel as happy as you know you should be. You hope things are becoming more balanced, that this tidal wave of emotion will turn into a ripple and eventually disappear.
The hormone fluctuations and life-changing effects of childbirth are real and are part of the process, but as a first-time mother or even on the second or third time around, many women are left wondering what is normal and what could be postpartum depression. For women who have never struggled with mental illness in the past, this can be a scary time, with partners and family also unsure of how to help. Sleep deprivation and other behavioral patterns can further complicate the situation.
Do not be afraid to ask for help. If you are not able to reach out on your own, have your partner, parent or close friend help you find someone who can help. Our obstetricians know to ask us about our moods at the six-week postpartum visit, but for many women, they have already spent weeks suffering at that point. Your doctor would be happy to hear from you before that if you need help, and they know clinicians in their network who specialize in counseling new mothers.
If you feel something, say something. We teach this to our children. Let’s practice it ourselves.
For more information about specific symptoms and resources, visit the Mayo Clinic website.