he birth of your baby is one of the most exciting and joyful moments of your life. It can trigger a number of other feelings, too, including fear, frustration, and sadness. Most new parents experience an intense mixture of positive and negative emotions as they welcome their child into the world.
Around eight in 10 new mothers experience the “baby blues,” which are short-term feelings of anxiety, restlessness, anger, or hopelessness. These emotions may set in two or three days after giving birth, and they may come and go throughout the day.
The typical baby blues should only last two or three weeks. If your feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or guilt continue for longer, you might be struggling with postpartum depression, which affects about 20 percent of new mothers.
Postpartum depression is one of the most difficult, confusing, and overwhelming experiences a parent can go though. Fortunately, it doesn’t last forever, and it is treatable with therapy.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is an episode of depression that occurs shortly after giving birth. It usually sets in within three or four weeks of delivery, but sometimes, symptoms start during pregnancy.
The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to major depression. If you have this disorder, you may feel excessively sad, angry, hopeless, or empty. Without treatment, these symptoms can last for months.
Postpartum depression can be a particularly difficult mental health disorder because there’s an added element of shame. You may feel guilty that you’re not loving every moment of being a new parent. You might tell yourself that you’re a bad parent for struggling or that your depression is affecting your baby. You may worry about asking for help because you don’t want to be judged by friends or family. These feelings can make the depression worse, which in turn worsens the shame and creates a vicious cycle.
If you’re experiencing these thoughts, remember that postpartum depression is incredibly common. You’re not a bad person or a bad parent for feeling these emotions. It’s not your fault, and millions of other parents can relate to your experiences. What’s important is that you do your best to care for yourself and your baby, which includes seeking treatment.
The causes of postpartum depression are unclear, but there may be many factors that contribute. The most tangible cause is the change in hormones that occurs after childbirth. Your body dramatically drops its estrogen and progesterone levels, and this sudden change can have a big impact on your mental health. Adjusting to this major life change, sleep deprivation, changes in your body, and the stress of labor may all cause postpartum depression, too.
Although most people associate postpartum depression with motherhood, new fathers can develop postpartum depression. It’s especially common in fathers who have a history of mental health disorders. If you’re a father struggling with mental or emotional stress after the birth of your child, know that your experiences are valid. You can and should reach out for help.
Other Postpartum Disorders
Postpartum depression is the most common and well-known postpartum disorder, but other mental health issues can also happen after childbirth. Anxiety is very common during and after pregnancy. You may worry about the health of your baby or about your skills as a parent. Some anxiety is expected in new parents as it’s such an unfamiliar and overwhelming experience, but you shouldn’t feel so anxious that you think of nothing else or that the worry interferes with your daily life.
New mothers may experience PTSD after a traumatic pregnancy or labor experience. This could happen if you have a history of trauma and the experiences with medical exams or delivery bring back painful memories. Medical emergencies or severe pain during pregnancy or labor can cause PTSD, too.
Postpartum anxiety disorder affects around 10 percent of new mothers. Although some worries are typical when you have a newborn, postpartum anxiety disorder causes frequent and intense feelings of dread, panic, or fear. You might avoid interacting with your baby because you’re afraid of hurting them, or you might think something catastrophic will happen if you don’t hold them all the time. Postpartum anxiety can affect everyone differently, but no matter how it manifests, it can cause severe distress during your first few months of parenthood.
New parents may experience the physical symptoms of anxiety, too, like dizziness, rapid heart rate, and nausea. However, these symptoms are often attributed to recovery from labor.
Postpartum anxiety usually sets in a couple weeks after giving birth, but a stressful or traumatic event could trigger it several months after delivery. Fortunately, even the most severe cases will not last forever. Like other forms of anxiety, postpartum anxiety is treatable with support from a professional.
Do I Have Postpartum Depression?
Because postpartum disorders happen during a big life transition, it can be hard to know for sure if you’re experiencing symptoms. Everything in your life has just turned upside down, so you can’t compare your current situation to your past mental health state. However, there are some signs you can look out for:
• Low mood or severe mood swings
• Feelings of guilt, despair, or hopelessness
• Isolating from family and friends
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
• Eating much more or less than usual
• Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
• Difficulty forming a bond with your baby
• Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum disorders are diagnosed by mental health professionals. They’ll ask you a series of questions about your symptoms and experiences to determine whether or not you meet the criteria.
If you’re wondering whether or not you’re experiencing postpartum depression, you should speak with a counselor or psychologist. In most cases, if mental health is on someone’s mind, it means that they could use some help. Even if you aren’t clinically diagnosed with a disorder, talking to someone can help you clear your mind.
Restore Your Mental Health with Counseling
You don’t have to deal with postpartum disorders on your own. Depression and anxiety are some of the most treatable mental health conditions, even in new parents. You deserve to enjoy parenthood without the stress and pain of mental illness, and therapy can help you learn to manage and alleviate your symptoms.
The vast majority of people who experience postpartum disorders recover fully without long-term consequences. Professional treatment can speed up your recovery and strengthen your mental and emotional health moving forward.
The counseling process usually starts with an assessment, which helps your counselor learn more about you and your situation. Then, you and your therapist will work together to find ways to address your depressive or anxious thoughts and develop coping skills.
Therapy for postpartum disorders can take on a variety of forms, but your counselor will use the method that they believe is best for you. One of the most common forms of therapy for treating all types of depression and anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This style involves exploring the relationship between your thoughts and emotions and identifying unhealthy patterns in the way you think and speak to yourself.
Your therapist may also suggest family or relationship counseling. This can help your partner or your other family members support you while you work on your mental health. If any relationship challenges are contributing to your struggles, this is an opportunity to work through them so that you begin your parenthood journey with a healthy and strong support network.
The Beverly Hills Therapy Group offers counseling for postpartum depression to new parents in the Los Angeles area. Our diverse team of therapists uses a wide variety of styles and approaches, so you can find the counselor who’s the right fit for you.
No matter what symptoms you’re experiencing, we encourage you to reach out if you’re feeling mental or emotional distress after childbirth. Contact us today to connect with a postpartum depression therapist in Beverly Hills.