Parenthood is not easy, but it can be especially challenging when you are struggling with postpartum depression (PPD). From new mothers, to second-time moms, to fathers and adoptive parents — postpartum depression can affect anyone. With the prominence of family bloggers online, it may feel as though you are being bombarded with images of the “perfect parents”, who somehow have time to cook gourmet meals, attend PTA meetings, keep their houses spotless, and host elaborate birthday parties. Unfortunately, these messages about how parents should feel, think, and behave often create barriers to getting help when it’s needed.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Around 80 per cent of new moms experience the “baby blues,” where they may feel emotional for a short period of time after birth. Postpartum depression, however, lasts much longer. PPD is a depression that parents may experience shortly after childbirth, in which symptoms often revolve around parenthood or infant care. As is the case with clinical depression, PPD can be caused by a number of factors, including family history, biology, personality, life experiences, and the environment. While almost 9% of new moms experience PPD after childbirth in Canada, signs of depression are often missed in new mothers because changes in sleeping patterns, energy levels, moods, and body weight are considered a normal part of motherhood.
According to Dr. Sophie Grigoriadis, whose research at Sunnybrook Hospital focuses on the treatment of mood disorders in women, the most prominent symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Depressed mood or depression with anxiety
- Loss of interest in things that would normally bring pleasure, including the baby
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Sleep disturbance and fatigue
- Physical feelings of being slowed down or restlessness, jumpiness, and edginess
- Excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Diminished concentration and inability to think clearly
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
How Do You Treat Postpartum Depression?
Treating postpartum depression is different for every parent, so it’s important to consult your doctor or another medical professional who can help you understand your symptoms and find the course of treatment that best suits your life. Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are medical conditions that require treatment, and there is no reason to feel embarrassed expressing how you truly feel and asking for help. It may take some experimenting or a combination of treatments to put you on the path towards recovery, but here is a run-down of some of the most common treatments for PPD to give you an idea of where to start.
- One of the most common treatments for mild to moderate postpartum depression is therapy, which can help you develop skills such as problem-solving, realistic thinking, stress management, and relaxation. For mild to moderate cases of PPD, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) can teach you how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours work together. Another common treatment is interpersonal psychotherapy, which focuses on relationships and helping new parents adjust to their changing roles. Both these therapies can be done one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting.
- Support groups can also be a valuable part of the recovery process for postpartum depression. Both PPD and new parenthood can isolate you from others, which may add to feelings of depression. Support groups offer a stable, safe space to share your experiences and connect with parents who have similar experiences. You can find local support groups, telephone support, and other reliable postpartum resources here.
- Medications called antidepressants can be used to treat postpartum depression. While many moms can safely use antidepressants while breastfeeding, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the possible risks and benefits. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s usually best to include counselling if you are taking an antidepressant medication for postpartum depression.
Share Your Story
Postpartum depression can make the struggles of parenthood more difficult than they already are, but it is not something that you have to conquer alone! In fact, many parents have shared their stories of battling PPD in order to destigmatize mental illness and encourage others to seek treatment. The Pacific Post Partum Support Society (PPPSS), a nonprofit organization, has a blog where you can find posts on self-care and the stressors of motherhood in the form of prose and creative writing. For more personal accounts, Kimberly, a nurse and mental health advocate has a personal blog where she documents her journey through PPD and shares resources for women going through similar experiences. Julie Seeney, a mom blogger based in the UK, also shares her experiences with PPD on her website, Mummy It’s Ok, and shares many action-oriented posts that focus on topics such as self-care and getting over the guilt of being a working mother.
When suffering from postpartum depression, the best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to seek help. Parenting, especially as new parents, is challenging, and no one does it on their own. Make sure to consult your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, and remember that there are many other parents who have been through what you are experiencing and made it out to the other side.