Being pregnant and giving birth is thought to be an immensely joyous milestone for new moms. The thought that they should be glowing and gushing over the new additions to their families is a belief that most people envision and expect. But what if the experience is not at all what you expected? What if you are not as happy about your baby as your family and friends? What if you are having a hard time bonding and feeling love and affection for your baby? What if the lifestyle and body changes are causing feelings of regret, guilt, and despair? You are not alone.
What is PPD? In Canada, it is estimated that anywhere between and 8 and 13 percent of moms experience Postpartum Depression (PPD). PPD is a diagnosis that differs significantly from the typical ‘baby blues’ we often hear about, and you may wonder how, and even, why? Baby blues are commonly described as feelings of tiredness, tension, and episodes of crying within the first few days after giving birth- symptoms that ultimately subside. Anything beyond this is when the new mom, partner, family, or friends should become more aware, observant, and concerned that something more may be happening.
Who is at risk? Postpartum depression is real, and it can happen to anyone. Having said that, there are pre-existing factors that might indicate a woman is more susceptible to PPD than others: a pre-existing mental illness, lack of sleep, isolation, unmet expectations of herself and/or partner, lack of social supports, and social inequalities, such as poor housing and low income.
If you or someone you know has experienced prolonged feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and loneliness following a pregnancy, you may want to take note. A mom experiencing postpartum depression might also feel trapped, and have a lost sense of self with significant changes in sleep and nutritional patterns. It is common that PPD develops when a baby is between 4 to 6 weeks old, but it is worth noting that it can also develop months and, in rarer cases, years after giving birth.
What to do: Consulting a physician and seeking therapeutic services from a psychologist, social worker, or other mental health care provider during this difficult time has been proven to be beneficial. There are also some things to keep in mind when at home: be honest with your feelings, ask for what you need from those around you, get as much rest and exercise as you can, pay attention to your nutritional needs, and socialize with other moms. There is no better way to normalize your experience than to hear of similar experiences from those going through it in real time!
Being a new parent can lead to feelings of bliss and despondence all at the same time. The importance of self-forgiveness, self-care, and openness to growth is paramount. There is no such thing as a perfect mom, so don’t strive for that stature. What matters is that you are at your best- mentally and emotionally- so you can give the best part of you to your baby. Talking about your struggles will only help to spread awareness of such a widespread experience. Taking time for yourself does not make you a bad mom, it makes you a strong and present mom. Forgiving yourself is an acknowledgment that you are human (not that something unfathomable happened), and growth means that everyday you gave it all you could.
References & Related Sites:
https://www.babycenter.ca/a557236/postpartum-depression-ppd http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/health_information/a_z_mental_health_and_addiction_information/Postpartum- depression/Pages/default.aspx https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/healthy-living/pregnancy-women-mental-health- canada.html
This article was written by Nicol Fraser, RSW, TITC-CT, therapist with del Rosario Psychology & Psychotherapy Group in Milton and Kitchener, Ontario. del Rosario Group provides personalized assessment and therapy for children, adolescents, adults and couples.
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