You’ve just had a baby, one of the most important and happiest events in your life. “What could make a woman happier than a new baby?” you wonder. So why are you so sad?
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We don’t know for sure, but you are not alone. As many as 80% of women experience some mood disturbances after pregnancy (“postpartum”). They feel upset, alone, afraid, or unloving toward their baby, and guilt for having these feelings.
For most women, the symptoms are mild and go away on their own. But 10-20% of women develop a more disabling form of mood disorder called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is not a commonly talked about phenomena. New moms are normally told that postpartum will be joyful with our new baby, though you might be teary eyed for a day or two.
Until recently not much thought was given to treating or preventing postpartum depression. But according to Karen Kline, a nurse at Mercy Hospital who specializes in postpartum depression, “The key to preventing postpartum depression may be individual support provided after birth by a health professional and tailored to fit a mother’s needs.”
There are many signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. A woman with the blues may cry more easily than usual and may have trouble sleeping or feel irritable, sad, and “on edge” emotionally. Other symptoms may include depressed mood, tearfulness, inability to enjoy pleasurable activities, trouble sleeping, fatigue, appetite problems, suicidal thoughts, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, and impaired concentration. If you experience postpartum depression, you may worry about the baby’s health and well-being. You may have negative thoughts about the baby and fears about harming the infant (although women who have these thoughts rarely act on them). It is important to know these signs before your baby comes. The best defense is a good offense.
When it comes to preventative care, experts agree that a plan of action needs to be made before your child is born. Some of the things you can do to prevent or help manage postpartum depression may include the following: Take care of yourself. Take breaks. Accept help from others. And nurture yourself.
After birth, new mothers tend to forget themselves and become completely absorbed in the baby. That’s normal, Kline says. But, she advises, “Develop a support system. One thing I always tell new moms is to have a list of things that need to be done. When someone calls and offers support, read from the list. Not only does it help, especially if you have problems requesting help, but it keeps you a bit more organized. Most people genuinely want to help you.” Don’t feel guilty, she adds. Being a mother is a difficult task for everyone, so don’t expect yourself to be perfect. Once you accept the fact that there‘s no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child life will be a whole lot easier. Most important of all, seek help. If none of the suggestions listed above help and your symptoms last more than 2-3 weeks or you are having great difficulty with daily living it is best to discuss your problems with a health care provider.
Having a baby should be a wonderful experience before and after the birth. Most mothers with postpartum depression recover completely. This is especially true if the illness is diagnosed and treated early. Meanwhile, about 50% of women who recover from postpartum depression develop the illness again after future pregnancies. To decrease this risk, some doctors suggest that women with a history of postpartum depression should start antidepressants immediately after the baby is delivered, before they have a chance to sink into depression. There is no sure way to avoid postpartum depression, but with an army of support and a plan of action, moms around the world can do just about anything.
_Kate Rowert, 20, is a student at Anoka Ramsey Community College where she is enrolled in an online journalism class that is a collaboration between the college and TCMA. Although she works full-time right now as office manager of a shredding company, she hopes one day to be editor-in-chief of her own magazine_