Postpartum Depression can hit With any Pregnancy
No two pregnancies are ever exactly the same. The birth of my son was an unexpectedly bumpy road. While that’s normally a harbinger of things to come, the months following his birth were great.
When my daughter’s birth went so much more smoothly, I was thrilled and looked forward to an even better newborn experience.
So I was shocked when I developed post-partum depression in the months after her birth.
For the most part, it would seem like things were trucking along fine. Things were a little off, but that’s normal, right?
Like having exhaustion.
I thought Extreme Exhaustion and Disinterest in Hobbies was Normal
“Managing a toddler and an infant (and a house) is just more work,” I would tell myself. “Of course, I’d be more tired.”
I wrote off my waning interest in my hobbies as well to this exhaustion. That I would have to muster all my energy into simple tasks because of the lack of motivation was just a part of motherhood.
We’ve all heard the anecdote that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.”
When I would find myself doing the same empty chores over and over, it felt like I was breaking off a little bit of my sanity, scattering it into the wild, and hoping that someday down the road, I would find those pieces and return to normal.
My logical side, saying, “this is only a season,” was often drowned out by rising anxiety. Unwanted thoughts couldn’t be banished from my head. This added to the exhaustion, because now I couldn’t even get to sleep without these intrusive images.
Post-Partum Depression can Last Over a Year
Amazingly, at a routine check-up 14 months postpartum, my doctor gently suggested that perhaps I was dealing with postpartum depression (PPD).
Fourteen months. Let that sink in.
The assumption that PPD can only happen within that first year is simply is not true.
PPD falls under a wide spectrum of what are considered perinatal mood disorders. This is a period of time that reaches as far back as during pregnancy (prenatal depression), the first year postpartum, and as late as the weaning period (which can be anywhere from birth to three years).
Overall, that is an almost four year stretch of time where the ever shifting hormones and other physiological changes can make a mom more susceptible to PPD and other perinatal mood disorders.
My doctor started me on a small dose of an SSRI and encouraged me to seek out community. (She also acknowledged this is much easier said than done, but that having even at least one really good friend you can be honest with can make a world of difference.)
We recently talked with Dr. Susan Hicks, OB/GYN, of Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, to discuss some of the symptoms of PPD and how you can reach out for help.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms and When to Seek Help
As your body, mind and routines change post-baby, you may be flooded with odd feelings of sadness or emptiness. Or you may wonder why you don’t seem to have any significant emotions at all.
During those first two weeks after baby is born, those feelings are common. Some refer to it as the baby blues, and it’s a natural reaction as you adjust to life with a newborn.
However, there are signs, symptoms and feelings that signal a more serious concern: postpartum depression.
“One out of seven moms, and one out of 10 dads, develop postpartum depression or perinatal mood anxiety disorder,” says Dr. Susan Hicks, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health OBGYN.
“The most important thing I stress to my patients is that postpartum depression is a real illness and it can be treated. I also tell them the symptoms are not a sign of personal weakness, it’s not their fault and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, beyond two weeks postpartum, Dr. Hicks says it’s time to talk with your physician.
Symptoms to Bring up With Your Doctor Postpartum:
- Excessive worry, nervousness
- Sadness, depression
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty with making decisions
- Difficulty managing anger and irritability
Postpartum depression becomes a more serious concern when patients experience a combination of these red flag symptoms:
- Suspicious of family or visitors
- Experiencing scary thoughts
- Very withdrawn
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Confusion, unable or unwilling to care for yourself
- Trouble bonding with baby
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or baby
“We use the Edinburgh Scale to determine the severity of postpartum depression,” notes Dr. Hicks. “Patients complete a short questionnaire and if they score above 11, we have a conversation about treatments.”
There are Coping Strategies for Postpartum Depression
Dr. Hicks remembers a patient who felt like she was in a cloud and couldn’t get out of it. It was hard to get up in the morning, and she was losing interest in caring for her baby. That patient scored a 12 on the Edinburgh Scale.
“In that particular case, we talked it through and discussed the coping strategies that would benefit her most.”
These Strategies Have Helped Women With Postpartum Depression
- Talk with your doctor, another mother or friend
- Ask for help with chores and errands
- Find 15 minutes a day for yourself
- Eat a good, healthy diet
- Seek counseling
- Connect with other women experiencing the same thing
- Take medication
Dr. Hicks emphasizes that there are many different treatments and coping strategies available to new moms and dads now.
And remember, everyone is different, so what worked for your friend may not work for you. Try different strategies until you find the ones that help.
Where to Turn for Help with Postpartum Depression in Grand Rapids
If you are experiencing extreme anxiety, irritability, sadness, or any other significant mood change during pregnancy and the post-partum period, please reach out for help. There are organizations around West Michigan equipped to help you through this time.
Talk to your spouse or partner. Talk to your doctor. Reach out to a friend. Ask for help. Call one of these places. The doctors at Metro Health have referred patients to these organizations.
If you know of others, please let us know in the comments!
MomsBloom | Grand Rapids
“Our programs were born to bring volunteers and families together to provide physical and emotional support to any family with a newborn – free of charge.”
PineRest Mother & Baby Program | Grand Rapids
“One of only a few in the country, the Pine Rest Mother and Baby Partial Program is a short-term, intensive day program for women experiencing significant symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD).”
Keep Seeking Help and Know That it Won’t Last Forever
“Years ago, postpartum depression was a taboo topic, and there weren’t as many resources,” says Dr. Hicks.
“Now, patients are much more open about their feelings and there’s an awareness around mental health.
“Postpartum depression is real, but the good news is, it won’t last forever .”
At Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, the well-being of families is a top priority. Our expert staff screen every new mother before discharge to make sure she is ready to take her new baby home. The Childbirth Center also offers an in-home care program, after the mother and baby head home, to assist in this critical time. Visit https://metrohealth.net/childbirth-services/bringing-baby-home/maternal-postpartum-care/ to learn more about Metro Health’s postpartum services.