What Is Postpartum Depression? And 6 Signs You Might Have It
The arrival of a new baby is supposed to be a joyous time of life, but for many mothers, it’s fraught with feelings of sadness, emptiness, and exhaustion. Considering the dramatic hormonal changes that come with giving birth, along with sleep deprivation, fatigue, and the stress of caring for a tiny human, it’s no wonder you might feel overwhelmed. But how can you tell if you just have a case of the “baby blues” or if it’s postpartum depression, which affects about 1 in 7 mothers?
6 Signs You May Be Suffering From Postpartum Depression
1. Your baby blues last longer than 2 weeks.
The baby blues typically involve mood swings, crying for no reason, trouble sleeping, and feeling sad or anxious. The baby blues usually develop in the first few days following birth and resolve within a few weeks. Symptoms that are more severe and that last for more than 2 weeks could be a sign of postpartum depression.
2. You feel unconnected to your baby.
The mother-infant bond is one of the most fundamental bonds in the human universe. If you emotionally withdraw from your baby, feel like you don’t love your baby, or neglect caring for your baby, it’s a sign you need help.
3. You’re sleeping too much, or not at all.
Of course, your sleep patterns will change after having a baby, and nightly feedings will interrupt your rest. However, if you’re oversleeping, or if you have trouble getting your zzz’s, even when the baby is napping, then it’s likely something more serious.
4. You seriously doubt your ability to care for your baby.
Feeling like you aren’t a fit mother and that you aren’t equipped to care for a newborn is a common symptom among women with postpartum depression.
5. You feel angry and irritable.
One of the most overlooked symptoms of postpartum depression is anger and irritability. Some mothers describe it as an intense rage that comes on suddenly and is out of proportion to whatever triggered the reaction.
6. You think about hurting yourself or your baby.
Thoughts of suicide or of harming your baby are red flags of a serious mental health crisis. If you are having any such thoughts, it’s important to call your doctor immediately.
Finding Help for Postpartum Depression
Many women with these symptoms feel too ashamed or guilty to speak to anyone about their struggles. They see it as a sign that they aren’t a good mom. Because of this, an estimated 60% of women with postpartum depression don’t seek help. But getting treatment for postpartum depression is critical for your own health and the healthy development of your baby.
Postpartum Depression and the Brain
One of the most important things for mothers to understand is that this condition is not a character flaw—it has a biological basis in the brain. Hormonal changes shortly after birth can alter the way the brain functions, especially in a region called the limbic system. This area is involved with setting the emotional tone of the mind, promoting bonding, and more. When the activity is too high in the limbic system, it is associated with sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, and an increase in negative thinking.
Brain SPECT imaging tests show that mothers who have postpartum depression tend to have abnormally high activity in the limbic system. Going to a practitioner who uses functional brain scans to help detect these changes in the brain can help you see that your condition is biological, not moral. It also allows for a more targeted treatment plan to help you get back to thinking of your new baby as a bundle of joy.
At Amen Clinics, we use brain SPECT imaging to identify brain patterns associated with depression. Our brain imaging work is part of a comprehensive assessment that also looks at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that can contribute to postpartum depression.
If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, whether or not you have a newborn, we’re here to help. Call 888-288-9834 today to speak with a specialist or schedule a visit online.