I just had a baby….so why do I feel so sad?

Having a baby was meant to be one of the happiest events of our lives, after all, most of us have dreamed of this moment since childhood.  For some new mothers, their dreams are shattered when they begin to experience anxiety and depression in or following pregnancy.  Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are said to be the most common complication associated with childbirth and include: prenatal depression and anxiety, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety disorders (including OCD, PTSD, and Panic Disorder) and postpartum psychosis.  If you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety, there is hope as these symptoms are very treatable and you can get better.

Some Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depressive Disorders

  • Have trouble sleeping and feel exhausted
  • Have lost your appetite
  • Worrying about little things
  • Think your children would be better off without you
  • Feel like you are a bad mother
  • Irritable with family about everything
  • Have intense mood swings or unexplained anger
  • Have difficulty concentrating
  • Feel easily overwhelmed or panicked
  • Isolated from your friends and family
  • Fear leaving the house or being alone
  • Feel like you will never get better

The Baby Blues?

Often after child birth, new mothers will have a mild transition in their mood known as the baby blues that last for the first few weeks and are related to the changing hormones in their body. 

postpartum depression

It can be very confusing when the mood swings and irritability do not go away, but intensify with other upsetting symptoms.  Many well-intended people may tell the new mother that she is going through the baby blues and will adjust…so be patient.  This of course, is not very helpful because if symptoms do not subside a few weeks after the birth, then she may actually be experiencing postpartum distress.

This is certainly not what you expected following your baby’s birth and you may feel like you have done something wrong; however, it is not your fault.  Postpartum distress comes as a shock to almost all new mothers who have likely never heard of these problems.  You may find it is easy to become critical and frustrated with what you are feeling.  People closest to you may not understand what you are going through and expect you to be happy.  You may feel pressured to play the part of the happy mother all the while secretly wondering “why don’t I feel happy?”; “maybe I don’t love my baby” or “am I a bad mother?”  Unfortunately, these are common questions that mothers in postpartum distress ask themselves as they try to understand and make sense of their experiences.  You are not weak, selfish or a bad mother.  You have done nothing wrong.  Postpartum disorders are not permanent conditions and will not last forever.  There is treatment that will help you recover and get back to being the mother you want to be.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is not the baby blues.  It is estimated that 20% (1 in 5) of new mothers will experience postpartum depression and anxiety.  Mothers who experience prolonged symptoms of sadness, crying spells, sleep and appetite disturbance, irritability, trouble making decisions, excessive fears, guilt, worthlessness, negative scary thoughts, overwhelming anxiety are most likely suffering from Postpartum Depression.  In addition to these symptoms, PPD may cause some mothers to believe their family would be better off without them and they become suicidal.  These thoughts are an irrational result of depression, excessive worry and guilt.  If you have been thinking like this, tell someone you trust and get help immediately.

Pregnancy Depression

psychotherapy, therapist, postpartum depression, counseling, counselorSome women find themselves feeling depressed during their pregnancy and questioning why they are even having a child.  This can be a disheartening and isolating experience surrounded by excited and happy well-wishers who have no idea how miserable you feel.  If you find yourself, relating to the symptoms for PPD, then you may have prenatal depression.  You can be treated for your symptoms with psychotherapy (and medication if necessary).  You do not have to be alone.  Please reach out for help today.

Postpartum Anxiety

You may not feel so more anxious than depressed.  Mothers who have postpartum anxiety experience constant worry and excessive fear.  You may feel worried all the time that something bad is going to happen to you, your baby or someone you love.  It may be difficult for you to sleep or go back to sleep after waking.  It is typical for anxious mothers to be hyper-vigilant, easily agitated and irritable.

Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Women who experience postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have reoccurring intrusive thoughts and horrifying images that can not be controlled or stopped.  The most common intrusive thought is of hurting their baby or the baby being harmed in some other way.  OCD mothers are aware their thoughts are irrational and know they will not hurt their child.  They may, however, become isolated with these thoughts ashamed to admit them for fear that others will believe their baby is in danger. The obsessive thoughts are due to anxiety not psychosis, and these mothers are not at risk of harming their babies.

Postpartum Panic Disorders

This is another form of anxiety disorder that occurs in some mothers after childbirth.  Usually, mothers with this condition will become overwhelmed and experience panic attacks.  The symptoms of panic attacks include shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations and numbness or tingling in your arms and legs.  Panic attacks can come on in response to anxiety or unexpectedly when seemly calm.  Some women who have panic attacks often fear they have a health problem or are having a heart attack.

Postpartum PTSD

Mothers who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have most likely experienced a hard and scary pregnancy or delivery that has created a trauma.  Difficulties in pregnancy such as illness or bed-rest, an emergency c-section and problems with the baby afterbirth could have traumatized the mother by causing her to fear for her life and the life of her child.  Afterwards, mothers may become very anxious and experience nightmares and flashbacks.

Postpartum Psychosis

Women with postpartum psychosis, the most serious of all postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, may have delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or mania. They may be hearing or seeing things that no one else can see. They may be afraid that everyone is out to harm them or get rid of them.  Mothers may also have a much greater amount of energy than normal and feel like they don’t need sleep and can take on the world.

It’s very important to get help right away if you have these symptoms. You can call 911, visit your nearest emergency room, or arrange to see your doctor immediately and tell what you are feeling.  Postpartum psychosis can lead you to do things, including dangerous or reckless things that you would never do otherwise. It is important for you to start treatment right away to help you get stable and prevent you or your loved ones from harm.

YOU DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!  YOU CAN GET BETTER!

How Psychotherapy Can Help:

Therapy will help by providing the support you need to understand what is happening to you and a safe haven to share your most vulnerable feelings.  Mothers need to be mothered.  It is easy for them to become depleted as they are caring for their little ones.  The therapist acts a supportive, nurturing figure helping you through this process in a gentle, understanding and loving way.  Many of your thoughts may have become distorted due to depression and anxiety, but you will learn how to interrupt these thoughts and stop reacting to them or allow them to control what you do or think.

Your therapist will assist you in this process and model for you a way out of your circular and obsessive thinking patterns.  You will learn to trust and follow your internal guide or intuition that knows what is best for you and your baby.  Regardless of which postpartum disorder you are dealing with, you will get better and return to your old self again.  These symptoms are not permanent.  You will not be feeling this way forever.  There is hope and we would like to help you find your way through.

 

Therapist in Columbia, SC; Counselor in Columbia, SC;  Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Postpartum, Eating Disorders, Couples and Marriage Counseling in Columbia, Irmo, Chapin, and Lexington, SC.