Welcoming a new baby into this world can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. The joy of newborn cuddles, the stress of feeding and the utter exhaustion from waking up every few hours (or more) can leave moms feeling completely overwhelmed.
The days and weeks after giving birth also come with significant hormonal shifts. These often bring about feelings of sadness and tearfulness but ease up after the first few weeks of motherhood as hormones begin to balance out. However, in some cases, this relief does not come as quickly. Some moms may experience more intense feelings of sadness that last for much longer. If you have been experiencing symptoms like these, you may be struggling with postpartum depression.
If you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, know that you are not alone and you don’t have to face this alone. Postpartum depression is common, with around one in eight women in the United States experiencing postpartum depression in their lifetime. Postpartum depression is also highly treatable. Working with a maternal mental health specialist can help you reduce your symptoms and bring more joy back into your days.
Research has suggested that around half of women who experience mental health struggles following birth do not receive any professional support. This partly stems from a lack of awareness about symptoms. To help you navigate this period, we have outlined a list of signs you could be experiencing postpartum depression. Identifying with some of the symptoms listed does not constitute a formal diagnosis. Rather, it is a sign that seeking out support from a maternal mental health specialist could help you.
Nearly all new moms experience mood swings, crying and overwhelm after giving birth. These feelings typically resolve after the first month. If these emotions are still present and growing in intensity weeks later, this could be a sign of postpartum depression. While postpartum depression typically starts in the first few weeks after giving birth, it can also begin any time within the first year.
It can be hard to find time to yourself during the postpartum period. When you do get it, do you still feel an interest in activities you typically enjoy? Do you want to eat your favorite food? Unwind with a favorite TV show? Call a close friend? If you are feeling less interested in doing these things, this could be a sign of postpartum depression.
Lots of emotions can show up in the postpartum period—sadness, crying spells, overwhelm, guilt and anger, to name just a few. When these emotions show up almost every day and feel like they are interfering with your ability to enjoy your baby or function well in your daily life, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
While it is common for your newborn to disrupt your sleep patterns, difficulty sleeping even when the baby is asleep can be a sign of postpartum depression.
Thoughts that feel intrusive and scary can be jarring for a new mom. These thoughts can feel invasive and might sound like, “What if I tripped and the baby and I fell down the stairs?” or “What if the baby stops breathing in the middle of the night and I sleep through it?” Having these kinds of thoughts can feel scary. They can pop into your head at the most inopportune times and can leave new moms feeling scared by their own thoughts. Many moms don’t seek support because they feel ashamed of this kind of thinking. Having these thoughts does not mean you are a bad mom, and finding these thoughts upsetting shows that they are not actual desires. However, it does mean you are experiencing a very common symptom of postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.
It is common for new moms to occasionally feel like they aren’t a good enough parent. A sign of postpartum depression is when these feelings occur frequently and feel like they are casting a shadow over your transition to motherhood.
Feelings of numbness or disconnect from your baby can be so challenging as you navigate the postpartum period. If you are feeling this way or you find it hard to spend time with your baby, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
These feelings can be scary and difficult but you don’t have to carry them alone. Too often, moms are inundated with messages about self-sacrifice and prioritizing the care of their baby over everything else. These miss a critical piece—caring for yourself is caring for your baby. By prioritizing your well-being, you can regain the energy and perspective you need for navigating the days of early motherhood.
Here are some steps to help you navigate postpartum depression:
Getting mental health support can help reduce your symptoms, speed up your recovery time and make your feelings more manageable. Our female therapists at Manhattan Wellness are trained in maternal mental health and can help support you with effective strategies to manage and move through postpartum depression. If you feel like your symptoms are more urgent (like you could hurt yourself or your baby), dial 911 immediately.
While being vulnerable can be hard, sharing your feelings with a trusted person in your life can help you feel less alone. Try identifying a trustworthy partner, a close friend or a relative. Letting this person in on your feelings can help them understand your experience and how they can best support you. Instead of carrying the difficulty of this time by yourself, allow someone in your life to help carry it with you.
Postpartum depression can make the daily activities of life and caring for a baby even harder to manage. Asking for help with a load of laundry or caring for the baby can free up some much needed time for self-care. A key part of self-care is acknowledging when you need support. Even if right now it feels like no one will step up, challenge yourself to ask for help anyway. Oftentimes we can be surprised by how the people in our lives can end up coming through.
Sleep can be hard to come by during your baby’s first few months. However, getting adequate levels of sleep is beneficial for your mental well-being. Consider asking a partner or relative for coverage so you can get a night of uninterrupted sleep. Let the dishes sit in the sink and take a nap when your baby finally settles down for theirs. If you are struggling to fall asleep, consider building an abbreviated nighttime routine to signal it is time to sleep for your body.
Carve out mini breaks throughout your day to prioritize your own self-care. Taking a longer shower or a walk around the block might not feel like much, but it can help your body reset and recharge.
At Manhattan Wellness, we know how hard navigating the postpartum period can be. Experiencing postpartum depression can feel scary and isolating, but you don’t have to face this alone. Our female therapists are here to support you in reducing your symptoms, regaining joy and journeying alongside you as you navigate new motherhood. If you are interested in therapy for your maternal mental health:
We offer a diverse range of individual counseling services and couples therapy. Our dedicated therapists can help with stress management, symptoms of depression, self-esteem challenges, and college student counseling. Additionally, we specialize in offering support for addressing body image concerns, and navigating the unique challenges faced by women, among other aspects. If you need support reach out to connect with a therapist.