Having a child can be overwhelming. Your life changes completely, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Looking after a newborn baby is stressful and exhausting: they seem so fragile, they cry (a lot), and because they sleep for very short periods of time (often only about 2 hours at a time), you may get the feeling that you are waking up the moment you fall asleep.
All that stress and lack of sleep can trigger depression, especially if you don’t have a strong network of family and friends to support you during this challenging period, or if you have a poor relationship with your partner. It is important to recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression, and seek help as soon as possible if you think you may be suffering from it. But first you must know how to recognize it and how it can be treated,
How to Recognize Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression affects more than 1 in every 10 women within the first year of having a child. It affects mainly mothers, but it also concern fathers and partners. It often starts during the first week after giving birth, when many women feel anxious or tearful. Depression during this first week is called “baby blues” and it is considered normal if it does not last for more than two weeks. But if these symptoms last longer, or start later, they may be the manifestation of postpartum depression.
There are several signs that may help you recognize postpartum depression. For instance, feeling sad or in a low mood, especially if these feelings are persistent and don’t have any clear cause.. Another sign may be the realization that things you used to enjoy now seem plain and ordinary, and no longer bring you pleasure. You may feel tired all the time, with no energy left to do anything, or you may have problems concentrating and making decisions. You may also have trouble sleeping at night (although some lack of sleep may be normal during this period ), or feel excessively sleepy during the day.
Postpartum depression may also manifest in an eating disorder; either a loss of appetite or increased appetite, known as comfort eating. Depression may affect your mood, leading you to feel agitated or irritable. You may also have feelings of self-blame, self-hatred, guilt, or hopelessness.
Postpartum depression may affect your relationship with others. For example, you may want to avoid contact with other people. Many mothers affected by this kind of depression have difficulty bonding with, or feeling close to, their child. Or they may feel that they are not capable of looking after their baby properly. They may even have frightening thoughts about hurting their baby, or themselves.
If you recognize these symptoms, please get help as soon as possible. Don’t just hope the problem will go away. Postpartum depression can continue for months, or even years, if left untreated. And all these symptoms can worsen with time and can affect your well-being and your relationships with your baby, your partner, your family, and your friends.
How to Spot Postpartum Depression in Others
Postpartum depression may be hard to recognize, especially if you are not the one feeling the symptoms. It is particularly hard to spot because the birth of a child is supposed to be one of the happiest moment of our lives, so new parents may feel the need to hide negative feelings they are having, to avoid being judged or stigmatized by others.
Some of the signs to look out for in new parents are: frequent crying with no obvious reason, not wanting to play or spend time with the baby, neglecting themselves (not washing or changing clothes), losing their sense of humor, losing all sense of time, speaking negatively all the time, or constantly worrying that something may be wrong with the baby.
Depression can be hard to detect and sometimes the affected person may not even realized that they may be suffering from it. As mentioned earlier though, if left untreated, postpartum depression may worsen and can heavily affect the wellbeing of the new parents and their baby.
If you recognize these symptoms in someone you know, encourage them to talk about their feelings, either with you, a friend, family member or a professional.
There are several ways of treating postpartum depression, such as deep transcranial magnetic stimulation, but the first, and most important step toward healing is knowing how to spot the symptoms and when to seek for help.