For first time parents, the reality of having a baby doesn’t sink in until they’re home, alone, and the visitors and the meals slow down. For women, especially, the stress and hormones can cause some pretty strong emotions. Around four weeks is when the symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) typically show itself. The isolation, the lack of sleep, the guilt of the sink full of dishes, and the baby crying to be fed — again; these are all things that can fuel depression in a new mom.
Not only are
you trying to function on a few hours of sleep, you are trying to keep up the image of being a perfect mom. It’s normal for certain feelings of inadequacy to creep into your mind, but when they start to influence your quality of life, it becomes a serious mental health issue.
Historically, childcare was a communal activity. The phrase, “it takes a village” was a literal lived experience. Families lived together and shared the responsibilities. It was a pooling of resources so no one had to struggle with doing it all. Although emotional difficulties after childbirth have been documented as early as 700 BC, it wasn’t until 1850 that PPD was recognized as a disorder. Women were afraid to talk about it, however, because there was still so much stigma and they feared being labelled as “neurotic” or “insane.” Doctors used questionable methods to treat these symptoms, but it didn’t do anything to actually help.
Today, the isolation of new parents can be overwhelming, and although it’s becoming safer to admit you feel depressed, you’re still expected to function and maintain a certain image of motherhood. Even our own mothers seemed to have pulled it off — until you talk to them and realize they felt everything you do, they just didn’t talk about it. Society’s image of the “perfect dad” is also changing. No longer is the detached, stoic provider the ideal that men wish to achieve. Because we have isolated men from the experience of hands-on fatherhood, they feel the pressure, too, when trying to be involved.
It’s estimated that between 10% and 15% of new mothers are dealing with postpartum depression. That’s a lot of women. Add to that, approximately 26% of new dads worldwide also experience this.
Postpartum depression is a mental health concern, and can lead to more health issues later on. Don’t brush it off if someone says, “Don’t worry, it’s just the baby blues. You’ll get over it.” You do not have to learn to deal with these feelings on your own, nor do you have to pretend that you’re okay. Postpartum depression doesn’t disappear by ignoring it.
Watch for these symptoms if you think you might be dealing with, or developing, postpartum depression:
- mood swings
- trouble sleeping
- appetite issues
- feeling overwhelmed
- irrational thoughts
- uncontrollable crying
Find a qualified professional to talk to, find other new parents, tell your partner what you’re feeling, or hire a postpartum doula to ease the stress of newborn life for a little while. Remember that there is nothing wrong with you. This is life’s biggest transition. Everyone needs help, and asking for help is not failure.
How did you feel after bringing home baby? Tell us your happy, and not-so-happy, tales in the comments!