I can’t believe it is happening to me. I have been pregnant six times and gave birth five times. And this last pregnancy was extremely upsetting or confusing perhaps. I do not know. Until now, I am still confused or so I would like to think.
I asked a friend if postpartum depression is real. She answered abruptly, “Yes. Sadly it is real.”
Am I experiencing one? I checked on the symptoms. I think I belong to the 10 percent new mothers suffering from postpartum depression. Though experts believe the number is even higher because many moms don’t seek treatment and do not even know they are suffering from one.
What is postpartum depression?
From what I am experiencing, postpartum depression (PPD) is that powerful feeling of sadness and despair. It hinders one from functioning fully as a person. It is not the normal stress and exhaustion of new motherhood. It begins a few weeks after pregnancy or even during the pregnancy itself.
I believe I have been suffering from one since my pregnancy. I felt the change on how I deal with my kids. And now, my boys are all afraid of me. I seldom smile at and laugh with them. I am often ill-tempered. And I do not help them with their school concerns anymore.
Experts say that about 80 percent of new moms experience baby blues or that emotional state of unhappiness, self-doubt, and fatigue. It typically begins a few days after child birth and goes away within a week or two. However, if the same feeling got intense and lasted longer than two weeks straight, one must have been experiencing PPD.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Again from what I am experiencing and from my readings, a mother has PPD if she is experiencing five or more of the following indications almost everyday for at least two consecutive weeks already:
- being irritable
- crying all the time
- difficulty making decisions
- extreme emptiness and sadness
- loss of appetite or eating too much
- overpowering feeling of guilt
- troubling falling sleep at night or trouble staying awake during the day
- unable to care for the baby
- in rare cases, delusional thoughts to harm self or the baby
When I read those symptoms, I am positive I am suffering from PPD. But I do not want to make it an excuse to harm the relationship I have with my family. I could already feel the distance I have created to my boys. I understand their confusion. And my anger to my husband deepens as he can’t even defend me to our children. But how could he even support me if he isn’t even aware of what I am feeling? Again, I keep everything to myself. I assume that as a sensitive and loving spouse, he should feel and understand what I am going through.
What causes postpartum depression?
From the many readings I did and through the help of one mommy friend I asked for advice, PPD is the result of hormonal, emotional, and genetic factors that are beyond a mom’s control. It happens if one experienced a stressful life during her pregnancy. I must say during my pregnancy, life was pretty challenging. For one, my mom would nag my husband about expenses and I was the most affected of that nagging.
A mom may also develop PPD after an exhausting child birth experience. Mine was pretty draining as we never thought I would give birth through Cesarean Section. Our baby needed neonatal intensive care as well. Though it is completely normal that a newborn’s blood sugar level is low in the first few hours of birth, his, on the other hand, was quite alarming. As he is expected to get his glucose from my milk, my milk supply that time wasn’t enough. We needed breast milk donors or he will be given formula milk, much to my hesitation.
I may also say, though I have the support of my friends, the one closes to me doesn’t give the support I very much need or so I would like to think. Many times as well, my husband would act strange or indifferent or so again, as I would like to put it.
Others developed PPD due to the following reasons, and again, I saw a number present in my condition:
- baby blues after child birth
- baby with medical problems
- being single
- domestic violence
- emotional adjustment of becoming a parent
- family history of psychiatric problems
- financial instability
- gestational diabetes
- many medical appointments during pregnancy
- multiple babies
- sleep deprivation
- unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
How is postpartum depression treated?
Just like any other depression, PPD is treated the same. Antidepressant medicine may be given. Counseling is also another effective way to treat PPD. Those with severe cases of PPD even undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), a treatment wherein electric currents pass through the brain to cause chemical changes and relieve depression symptoms. A patient undergoes ECT under general anesthesia.
For breastfeeding moms, it is safe to take antidepressants while nursing. Though the medication does pass to the baby, the levels are too low to cause side effects.
How do I cope with postpartum depression?
Though I would like to make a separate blog post about this, I would just like to share a few pointers.
First, it is crucial that one acknowledges PPD is real and it can happen to you. But do not let it eat you and affect your relationship with your family. If it already does, be brave enough to make amends. Your family will surely understand it because, for years, love has always been there. They are confused and so are you because your behavior is something not common. That alone signifies you are not your usual self.
Be good to yourself. Take it slow. Get all the rest you need. Talk to a friend or to someone you trust. If you can talk to your partner, do so. Do not stress yourself too much about everything. You will get back on track soon enough.
I am still dealing with my PPD. I am not proud to have experienced it and still experiencing it. But at least I have felt its not so good side. It made me miss my old self, my boys, my family.
This momi confesses she is experiencing postpartum depression. And she is healing.