Having a baby is a life-changing experience. Being a parent is exciting but can also be tiring and overwhelming. It’s normal to have feelings of worry or doubt, especially if you are a first-time parent. However, if your feelings include extreme sadness or loneliness, severe mood swings and frequent crying spells, you may have postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that happens after someone gives birth. Postpartum depression doesn’t just affect the birthing person. It can affect surrogates and adoptive parents, too. People experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial and social changes after having a baby. These changes can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
If you have postpartum depression, know that you are not alone, it’s not your fault and that help is out there. Your healthcare provider can manage your symptoms and help you feel better.
Some people feel ashamed about their symptoms or feel they are terrible parents for feeling the way they do. Postpartum depression is extremely common. You’re not the only person who feels this way, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
You may have postpartum depression if you experience some of the following:
- Feeling sad, worthless, hopeless or guilty.
- Worrying excessively or feeling on edge.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things you once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite or not eating.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Trouble sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
- Crying for no reason or excessively.
- Difficulty thinking or focusing.
- Thoughts of suicide or wishing you were dead.
- Lack of interest in your baby or feeling anxious around your baby.
- Thoughts of hurting your baby or feeling like you don’t want your baby.
The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase tenfold during pregnancy but drop sharply after delivery. By three days postpartum, levels of these hormones drop back to pre-pregnancy levels.
In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes associated with having a baby increase your risk of postpartum depression. Examples of these changes include physical changes to your body, lack of sleep, worries about parenting or changes to your relationships.
Postpartum depression isn’t entirely preventable. It helps to know warning signs of the condition and what factors increase your risk. Here are some tips that can help prevent postpartum depression:
- Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your baby.
- Limit visitors when you first go home.
- Ask for help — let others know how they can help you.
- Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps.
- Exercise — take a walk and get out of the house for a break.
- Keep in touch with your family and friends — don’t isolate yourself.
- Foster your relationship with your partner — make time for each other.
- Expect some good days and some bad days.