Being a new mom is an exhilarating, exhausting, exciting, and at times terrifying life event. For first time moms, there are many emotions that they will encounter. While some of the emotions may be familiar, they will also feel very new, as this is the first time experiencing these feelings in connection to a new role, a new identity, and the most important job in the world: motherhood.
Whether you are a first-time mom or fifth-time mom, taking care of a new baby is amazing and rewarding, but also challenging. For one out of every seven moms, Postpartum Depression (PPD) will manifest through a variety of symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition (DSM-5), Postpartum Depression falls under the category of “Major Depressive Disorder”. The specifier is “peripartum onset”, and it is noteworthy to point out that “fifty percent of ‘postpartum’ major depressive episodes actually begin prior to delivery” (p. 186).
If you are unsure whether you are experiencing “Postpartum Depression”, there are some questions to ask yourself. Have you lost interest in daily activities, or are you experiencing depressed mood (crying much more than usual, feeling hopeless or sad)? If you answer yes to one of those two symptoms, then ask yourself: “have I experienced insomnia?”, “have I experienced a significant change in appetite?”, “do I feel fatigue?”, “have I experienced feelings of guilt or worthlessness?”, and “has it been tough for me to concentrate or make decisions?” If you answered yes to four of the preceding questions, then you will need to call your doctor to discuss your symptoms and treatment options. If you are experiencing thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide then you definitely need to call your doctor or dial 911. Postpartum Depression usually manifests within a few weeks after delivery, but there are many women who experience PPD symptoms within 1-2 years of delivery.
If you did not answer yes to the previous questions, and you don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for Postpartum Depression (Major Depressive Disorder with peripartum onset), then you may be experiencing Anxiety or Baby Blues. “Baby Blues” is a very common occurrence, which affects the majority of new moms. Linked, in part, to hormonal changes, symptoms include: sadness, mood swings, crying, fatigue, and insomnia. The symptoms are similar to PPD; but, unlike PPD, they usually go away within about 14 days after the baby was born. The DSM notes that “mood and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy, as well as the “baby blues”, increase the risk for a postpartum major depressive episode” (p. 187).
If you are overwhelmed by the challenges of motherhood, please know that there is help. After speaking to your doctor, he or she may suggest medication, therapy, or a combination of the two. Here at Olive Branch, Carolyn leads supportive groups for moms. You do not need to have a diagnosis to join the groups. The groups are beneficial for all moms who are looking for a place to be heard and a place to relate to and connect with other women going through similar experiences.