It’s a medical condition that is surrounded by a tremendous amount of stigma. And yes, it really is a medical condition. Until I suffered from my own extreme cases of postpartum depression I couldn’t say that it really held any sort of physical foundation. And yes, I said case(s), plural. With both children I suffered from extreme postpartum depression.
I’m a totally normal person typically…well, that might depend on who you ask. But I have absolutely no history of mental illness, nor do I have any real lingering effects now–except the stinging memories (or lack thereof) from the first weeks of my children’s births. It’s sad to me, and disappointing that during those important weeks that I should have been bonding, I was crying, sleeping and forgetting–all as a result of a medical condition that I had no idea was going to get me.
Fortunately, postpartum depression often responds well to treatment. Once symptoms are recognized and medical help can be found, most women recover fully. I did–though it took two years to find help. I made multiple visits to my doctor once I completed the initial rounds of antidepressants, complaining of terrible “PMS” symptoms that I just couldn’t shake. He told me it was situational and sent me out the door with more Prozac.
I knew that wasn’t the case, and my then 18 month old and I began a search for something else. I finally found my answer, and while it may not be everyone’s answer, vitamin supplementation along with amino acids from a local health food store finally kicked the sadness that robbed me of valuable time with my children, and gave me my life back.
Here’s some facts and figures on postpartum depression…
Those at risk for postpartum depression include
- young mothers under the age of 20
- those who have stressful family situations
- mothers of babies who are admitted for intensive care
- women who have little or no family support
Certain medical conditions may also increase the risk for postpartum depression– such as thyroid problems, or a personal or family history of mental illness. (Turns out I had my thyroid to thank.) The most common symptoms associated with postpartum depression include
- sleeping too much or not enough
- crying uncontrollably
- difficulty concentrating
- feelings of worthlessness
- thoughts of hurting the baby
- suicidal thoughts
- decreased appetite
- loss of interest in usual activities
Keep in mind that it is normal to have periods of crying, and moments of emotion for up to one week after the birth of the baby, without a diagnosis of postpartum depression. This period of time is known as the baby blues, and most women can expect mood swings as hormone levels reregulate. Any symptoms lasting beyond one week after birth should be reported to a physician. I would never wish this struggle on any woman, and I’m yet to meet anyone who suffered as badly as I did…but I just want you to know that there is help out there–don’t be afraid to find it–your life, and your children’s lives depend on it.