“For example – no one told me that it’s perfectly fine to admit you didn’t ‘love’ your baby when it was fresh from the minge and being thrust at you. Its ok. I felt the same way I felt when I saw my placenta in that sick bowl – morbidly interested in what it looked like – but no thanks I don’t really fancy a cuddle with it.”
The post struck a chord with new parents around the world. At the time of this writing, her message has received 79,000 “likes” and been shared more than 72,000 times.
Postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD/A) is the moderate to severe depression and/or anxiety some women experience after giving birth. It affects 1 out of 6 new mothers and occurs soon after delivery or up to a year later. It can be caused by changes in hormone levels both during and after pregnancy, but there are other contributing factors – lack of sleep, changes in work and social relationships, changes in your body, and concerns about being a good parent. Sometimes the depression is related to an undiagnosed condition such as an underactive thyroid. It doesn’t just affect first-time mothers. Mothers who’ve already had children and adoptive moms can also experience postpartum depression. And some studies show that dads can get PPD/A, too.
Usually, “baby blues” are common after childbirth, but disappear after a week or two. Sometimes, though, these feelings of sadness, irritability, loss of energy and anxiety don’t just go away. Left untreated, PPD/A can last months or years. And women with PPD/A are at greater risk for other problems, such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or postpartum psychosis, a rare condition where thoughts of suicide or harming one’s child can arise, as in the case of Florence Leung, the BC mother who took her own life last November. Left untreated, PPD/A can last months or years.
There are so many pressures on new parents. Health Canada recommends that women breastfeed their new infants for the first six months, to the exclusion of any other nourishment. Women who can’t produce enough milk, or find the process frustrating even after consulting a lactation expert, feel like failures. Especially when an overzealous and insensitive stranger chides them for resorting to baby formula.
If you or your partner are feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, and those feelings continue, seek help. Qualified talk therapists can help put things in perspective and make you realize you’re not alone. A doctor may prescribe antidepressants or other medicine, keeping in mind that if you’re breastfeeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk.
Tips to help moms cope with PPD/A
(courtesy of the Pacific Post Partum Support Society)
– Ask for help: family, friends, neighbours, other moms, people in your community—be specific. Most want to help. Let them know how they can.
– Have your partner, family member or friend take the baby out of the house and do something that nurtures you!
– Make sure your core needs (sleep, food, water) are being met. Try to snack through the day, drink water & sleep when you can.
– Set small, manageable goals for the day.
– Return to a hobby that you had before the baby (photography, jigsaw puzzles, reading, gardening, baking—do something you love).
– Get out of the house. Run an errand or just go for a walk around the block.
– Get off of Facebook and connect with people in real life—phone a friend, meet another mom for coffee, visit a Family Place or community centre.
– Listen to music, reread a favourite book or watch a beloved movie.
– Write down three reasons that you’re a great mom (or dad).