This has not been an easy post to write. I have wrestled with how to present this for almost two weeks now. This is such a sensitive topic that so few ever share about, being so raw and honest is hard especially about something so personal and tender. I was not so eager to share my story and struggled to find a way to share about a topic that I find to be SO important for new mothers, and even second or third timers. Most of the focus is on pregnancy and birth (and understandably so, it’s a major transitional event that happens to your body), that we almost never hear people talk about what the transition can actually be like once the excitement and the rush of a new baby is over. All the guests and visitors stop coming and reality sets in; negative feelings, depression, irritability, guilt, hopelessness…You feel like a bad parent like something’s wrong with you. You wonder what is happening, but everyone always tells you “It’s the best thing you’ll ever do!” So, of course, you better not screw it up! Every other new mother has always had smiles and perfect faces, never looking tired or miserable. It may leave you wondering “What is wrong with me?!” “What am I doing differently?!” (because we all know the mom has complete control over a brand new baby, herself, sleeping perfectly, and everything that could possibly influence her emotions and baby! *Insert eye roll emoji here…)
So here it is! The best I could do to share information about the postpartum traumatic experience without bleeding my guts out… (inhale)
Recognizing the signs of postpartum complications is an important part of preparing for your new baby. We all think that we have to take birthing classes to be prepared and have everything in just the right spot, but the untold truth is that there is So much more to bringing home your new baby than just prepping for birth. Yes, this is a big part of it, and yes, birthing classes can help a great deal, but let’s not forget the importance of recognizing postpartum symptoms.
There are three different categories in the area of Postpartum Depression.
1. Baby Blues
Baby Blues is the most common and recognizable symptom of Post Pardom Depression. People may take this to mean depression is the biggest sign, and yes, that is one of them but, there are many other symptoms.
I think it may be important to state here that the Baby Blues is not a character flaw or a weakness. It can simply be a complication of giving birth. It does not mean you are incapable or failing. It simply means you had a baby and are experiencing side effects and may need some help.
Other Symptoms of Baby Blues are:
Mood Swings, Anxiety, Sadness, Irritability, Feeling overwhelmed, Crying, Reduced Concentration, Appetite Problems, and Trouble Sleeping.
If you are experiencing these things more than normal, it might be a good idea to mention this to your healthcare provider.
In talking to a postpartum doula, a trained professional who assists new parents with the transition of becoming new parents, she said this about Baby Blues:
“Lots of new mothers experience what is known as the “baby blues” in the first couple of weeks postpartum (key phrase-lots of new mothers experience…). This is perfectly normal and is caused by the extreme shift in hormones after giving birth, and milk production beginning. Baby blues should subside after a couple of weeks at most. Encapsulating your Placenta and taking it as a multivitamin can greatly assist in this. It may gross you out but if it helps you keep your sanity, it is worth the grossness and the money.” (Amen!)
I did not do this my first time and I actually Really regret this. There are a lot of other benefits to having this saved, it can help with cramps, menopause, and hormonal migraines. I even got my husband to take some. (I’ll talk more about this towards the end.) I lovingly refer to my stash as my “happy pill”, I take it and within 15 minutes I feel great and happy!
2. Post-Partum Depression
Some may think this is the same thing as the Baby Blues, but there are differences. The symptoms that are the same or similar usually are somewhat more severe.
Depression or severe Mood Swings, Excessive Crying, Difficulty Bonding with baby, Withdrawing from family and friends, Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual, Inability to sleep or sleeping too much, Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy, Reduced interest and pleasure in activities once enjoyed, Intense irrealities and anger, Fear that you’re not a good mother, Feelings of worthlessness, Shame, Guilt, or inadequacy, Diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate or make decisions, Severe anxiety and panic attacks, Thoughts of harming self or baby, Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Here is a more extensive list of the Signs of Postpartum Depression:
1. Negative feelings
worsens over time with new moms
unable to focus on joys and positivity associated with motherhood
linger aspect of PPD
worry about things you have no control over
more noticeable in women who were not that way before
hostility towards your baby
Shunning new baby
feeling trapped by responsibilities
3. Extreme guilt for hostility or sadness
Often leaves new mothers feeling unworthiness of being a mom and unable to care for this new life or the other responsibilities they had beforehand
no surprise moms feel exhausted and irritable. Most are motivated by the joy of being a new mom and bonding with their new babies.
lack motivation and can’t see the Joy in motherhood.
5. Panic attacks
6. Appetite changes
constant worry, anxiety, guilt is enough to leave most moms feeling nauseated fatigued, migraine headaches, suffer from loss of appetites or stress eating and severer stomach pains and digestive problems.
7. Lack of Sex drive
due to weight gain, bloating, body image issues. Let’s face it; the extreme fatigue and physical attention required to carry, breastfeed, rock, soothe, and diaper your new baby won’t put you in the mood. However, if this lasts past a few months of getting used to new motherhood, you may be suffering from PPD.
8. Worsening depression
each case is characterized by feelings and actions that are out of character for that particular woman.
loss of motivation
the extreme hopelessness that remains constant and gets worse over time.
Increase in Omega-3 levels may help lower risk of PPD
Please note that experiencing any of these does not define you or your parenting skills. No one should think you are less than you are by admitting you have had thoughts of harming yourself, baby, or thoughts of suicide. If they do, they are not the right person to talk to and I encourage you to keep searching for the right one until you find someone who will help you. And if someone has thought ill of you, I apologize.
3. Postpartum Psychosis
I had personally never heard or knew some of these were possible. If you or someone you know is suffering from Postpartum Psychosis, please get help as soon as possible.
Confusion and disorientation, Obsessive thoughts about your baby, Hallucinations and Delusions, Sleep disturbances, Paranoia, Attempts to harm self or baby.
When to see a Dr.
It’s important to call your doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:
Don’t fade after two weeks
Are getting worse
Make it hard for you to care for your baby
Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If feelings of depression occur after the birth of your baby, don’t’ feel reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. It does not mean you have failed or are a bad mother. It simply means you had a baby and have a lot of hormonal changes going on in your body right now. Many people suffer from this and never get help. These first few months of your baby’s life should be joyful and enjoyable, experiencing these symptoms make it hard to do so. Please don’t miss out on making beautiful memories.
There is one other type of Postpartum I would like to mention, Postpartum Trauma. I may have made up this category. But I still think it is something worth mentioning. Honestly, there may be a better name for it and it may be a real thing, I just can’t think of it right now! Experiencing Trauma during labor can have a large impact on your postpartum recovery (in my opinion). It can inhibit bonding with your baby and make the thought of ever having a baby again terrifying, or even the thought of having sex seem impossible. When you have a birth plan and it goes awry in any way, the effects can be long lasting even after all symptoms seem to be gone. Processing those emotions with a safe person can help provide healing.
One final thought I would like to leave you with is this; even less talked about is the fact that men can also suffer from postpartum complications the can experience a number of these same complications as the mothers do. They may be traumatized by seeing someone they love in pain, they can feel helpless and like they can’t Do anything, which is a big deal for a man. A man can also experience trauma by seeing a baby come out of a place he associates with pleasure and enjoyment. He may find it difficult to be intimate. It can be hard for a man to body with a baby as it is but they can even have a harder time bonding if they experience trauma in some other form of the process.
And on a happier note! Restoration and healing can be possible for anyone who may have experienced a traumatic birth, or postpartum complications. My first birth and postpartum experience with my daughter was not all sunshine and roses, and now that she is almost three years old, we have been able to slowly build a healthier, happier relationship by building different ways to bond with each other. The process has been slow and there is still healing to take place, but I am continuing to see our relationship grow and become a blessing every day! After the birth of my son, I now have a more positive outlook on birthing and post birth and even hope to become a birthing doula someday because I want to experience the magic of births and help give others positive experiences. If you have experienced any of these, just know there is hope for healing and you are not alone. I speak as one who has been down both roads, I know the pain and the joy of giving life. I have seen my experiences help others avoid pitfalls and provide a person who understands.