PPD — also known as Postpartum Depression — is the experience of depression that comes after having a baby. While it can feel isolating to experience PPD, research actually shows that one in every eight women on average experience some form of PPD. Some studies even cite statistics as high as one in five women. All this is to say that if you’re experiencing symptoms of PPD, you aren’t alone, and there are resources to guide and support you throughout your process of caring for your own mental health and caring for your baby.
PPD can be a challenge for anyone, whether you’re experienced depression before or this is completely new to you. No matter where you are in your journey, you can manage and get through your postpartum depression, even if it’s hard. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed right now, that’s okay. Just remember that you’re not alone. Here are a few things you need to know about PPD.
You may have already heard about Baby Blues. If you haven’t, the Baby Blues is another name for the mood swings — often sadness, irritability, depression and negativity — that can come immediately after a baby is born, likely due to hormone changes in the mother’s body. It’s estimated that the Baby Blues impacts between 70-80% of new mothers, so it’s definitely a more common experience. Many people even mistake Baby Blues for PPD at first, as it’s often thought to be the most milk form of it. The difference, however, is that Baby Blues usually goes away within fourteen days of delivery. If symptoms last longer, PPD is likely on the table.
People often think of depression in all of its forms as an overwhelming sadness or negativity, and while depression can manifest in that way, it’s also possible for depression — both postpartum and otherwise — to manifest with symptoms such as apathy and fatigue, which can sometimes be intensified by large life changes. Even physical changes such as changes in appetite, body aches or changes in sleep patterns can signify depression, and since these symptoms can be heightened by giving birth and having a new baby, it’s always best to talk to a medical and mental healthcare professional about any concerns you might have.
While family history and personal history can never guarantee that you’ll end up with a certain condition, it is important to take note of your risk factors ahead of time so you can be prepared. Unfortunately, a family history of postpartum depression, a personal history of depression and personal history of bipolar disorder can be a factor in the risk for postpartum depression.
While the link between PPD and breastfeeding isn’t entirely understood yet, there is an observed link between the two. Namely, breastfeeding moms who breastfeed for longer periods of time are less likely to experience postpartum depression. However, that can be tied to a number of factors. Some moms with PPD report struggles with their milk supply, and there are also plenty of moms who breastfeed but still experience postpartum depression. Since the science isn’t completely there yet, it’s difficult to say how exactly the two work together, but it can certainly vary from person to person.
One of the most important things you need to know about postpartum depression is that you aren’t alone. In fact, there are more resources than ever before that can help and support you through it. While everyone’s support system is different, finding support that works for you will be key in helping you manage this challenging time. Leaning on your partner and loved ones, asking for help with practical tasks, finding a therapist that works for you and seeking out others with similar experiences to yours can help you feel supported and understood.
While mental illness can happen to anyone, there are life circumstances that can put mothers at higher risk for postpartum depression. For example, young mothers and mothers with unplanned pregnancies may be at a higher risk for postpartum depression. Risk factors like excessive stress, single parenthood and physical health challenges heighten a mother’s risk as well. Additionally, Black, indigenous and Asian women may also be at a higher risk for PPD.
While postpartum depression may be a challenging experience, there are so many ways for you to stay informed and manage whatever emotions come your way after having your baby. Remember, no matter what happens, you aren’t alone. Medicine, psychology and the cultural consciousness has never been as informed and ready to care for mothers with PPD than today, and you can rely on that to help get you through.