The baby is crying, the house is a mess, you haven’t showered in days and you’re utterly overwhelmed. Even the thought of friends coming over to deliver a warm meal seems like too much. This is a typical scene for a new mother, but for those struggling through postpartum depression these normal events can feel insurmountable. But there is hope for healing and recovery for new moms experiencing these surprisingly common feelings. And the best thing we can do for ourselves — and for other women — is remove the stigma and shame around this shared experience simply by talking about it.
Today, a mother who experienced postpartum depression and anxiety after delivering her baby at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, gives us an inside look at what postpartum depression or PDD really looks like. We also spoke to two Brookwood Baptist Medical Center OB-GYNs who offer advice on what to do prior to baby’s arrival, how it may feel and what to do if you think you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD.
What to Know Before Delivery
Amanda Adair dealt with anxiety and depression prior to having her daughter six years ago, but after delivery things got worse. She remembers the photographer arriving for her daughter’s newborn session, seemingly surprised to find the new mother in her sweats, entirely uninterested in having her photo taken with her new bundle of joy. “They were not the usual pictures where you see the baby on the nice bed and the mother all dressed up, and everybody’s just this one big happy family,” Amanda says. “You can look back at those pictures and you can see a lot of what was going on. It’s really like ‘here’s your snapshot of postpartum depression.’” This was a crystalline moment in Amanda’s journey, but she says she knew all along that she had postpartum depression, in part because they were feelings she was familiar with.
Though this self-awareness can’t stop PPD from happening, it is vital for all moms-to-be and their partners as it’s very common and very treatable, especially when detected early. Dr. Jon Adcock of OB-GYN South, an affiliate of Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, says there are a few things pregnant women can do to prepare themselves for the possibility of postpartum depression prior to delivery. “I would first make it a priority to be as healthy as possible during the pregnancy, which includes eating properly and exercising — when possible and within reason — for as long as possible during the pregnancy,” Dr. Adcock says. “Also, if there is any personal history of depression, previous PPD and life stressors like other kids, job, etc., then be aware of the possibility of PPD. The other thing, too, is not being afraid to mention it or ask about it. Don’t deny the concerns if there are any, and don’t be embarrassed about that. It has no bearing on a mom’s quality as a mom or any lack of love for her baby.”
How You Might Feel
An estimated one in seven women experience postpartum depression following the birth of a child. Of course, every new mother has to contend with stress, exhaustion and shifting hormones following delivery, which can cause an emotional slump often referred to as the “baby blues” — but postpartum depression is different. “Thoughts and emotions will come and go,” Dr. Adcock says. “Postpartum depression will persist.”
Amanda experienced a confusing combination of emotions that ruled her daily life and put her in a fog in the weeks and months following delivery, all of which are common to mothers suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. Needing help but not wanting it, snapping at loved ones, feeling afraid and anxious to be left alone with the baby, being unable to eat or sleep and a general exhaustion and misery that she just couldn’t shake after nine months of a difficult but much-wanted pregnancy.
Other warning signs of postpartum depression according to the American Psychological Association include deep sadness, excessive irritability and mood swings, crippling anxiety, general disinterest and thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
“It typically occurs within a couple of weeks to a month after delivery, but it could occur up to several months postpartum,” says Dr. Karla Kennedy of Women’s Care Specialists, an affiliate of Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. “Though there are some known risk factors for PPD, it is unknown what exactly triggers it and it can happen to absolutely anyone.”
Asking for Help
The very best thing you can do for your new baby is to take care of yourself, so if you’re feeling symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s important to seek help, and your OB-GYN can offer that assistance. Dr. Kennedy urges women to talk with their doctors about how they’re feeling postpartum, especially if symptoms linger for more than two weeks.
“I want people to know that this is normal,” Dr. Kennedy says. “This happens to a lot of women, and there’s nothing they did to make it happen. Talking about it and seeking help is the best thing to do.” She says that after an open conversation with her patients, establishing a support system between the physician and the patient’s family is the first step, and from there she refers her patients to talk therapy and, when needed, medical therapy, such as an antidepressant.
Dr. Adcock suggests that his patients lean on those around them when walking through a season of postpartum depression. Family support, church support, counseling and other moms and mommy blogs are all among the resources he has found to be most helpful for his patients.
Additional resources for those struggling with PPD include:
- PPDMoms | 1-800-PPDMOMS (1-800-773-6667)
- Postpartum Support International | 1-800-944-4PPD (1-800-944-4773)
- Postpartum Health Alliance
- Postpartum Progress Blog
Amanda’s mantra in her difficult season of postpartum depression and anxiety became “This too shall pass,” and it did. Six years after giving birth to her beautiful daughter Caroline, Amanda is healthy and enjoying life and motherhood. She estimates that it took about two years before she felt fully like herself again, but she wants everyone touched by postpartum depression, from the mothers impacted to their spouses, family and friends, to know that it does get better.
The journey is different for every mother suffering from postpartum depression, but with a support system around you and the bravery to face PPD and seek help, there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel.
Thank you to Eric & Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for these beautiful images of Amanda and her daughter Caroline.
This article is sponsored by Brookwood Baptist Health. To learn more about Women’s Health services at Brookwood Baptist Health or to speak with a doctor about postpartum depression, click HERE.