As the saying goes, children are a blessing and their births should be celebrated, but what happens when a new mother feels no connection with their newborn and is always engulfed by feelings of sadness and confusion? Rest assured, you are not alone. Anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues – an emotional state of tearfulness, unhappiness, worry, self-doubt, and fatigue. The baby blues typically begin a few days after delivery and go away on their own within a week or two.
However, if your feelings seem unusually intense and have lasted longer than two weeks straight, you may have to get wondering whether you have a more serious condition. It may come as a surprise, but you could have postpartum depression (PPD).
There are many reasons why a mother may get PPD, including the following:
Hormones. Your hormone levels rise when you are pregnant. After your baby is born, they drop suddenly. This quick change can trigger depression in some women.
History of depression. If you have had depression before, or it runs in your family, you may be more likely to have postpartum depression.
Stress and problems. If you did not want to be pregnant, or your partner and family do not help you care for your baby, you are more likely to become depressed as a new mom. The condition is also more common among women with money issues, problems with drugs or alcohol, or other big sources of stress.
The following are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for:
- You feel overwhelmed. Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I cannot do this and I am never going to be able to do this.” You feel like you just cannot handle being a mother. In fact, you may be wondering whether it was a great decision for you to become a mother in the first place.
- You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell that you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness or connection that you thought you would. You may wonder whether your baby would be better off without you.
- You do not feel bonded to your baby. You are not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about in magazines. Not everyone with postpartum depression feels this way, but many do.
- You cannot understand why this is happening. You are very confused and scared.
- You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment toward your baby, or your partner, or your friends who don’t have babies. You feel an out-of-control rage.
- You cannot bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.
Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both.
Psychotherapy. It may help to talk through your concerns with a psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health provider. Through therapy, you can find better ways to cope with your feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and respond to situations in a positive way. Sometimes family or relationship therapy also helps.
Antidepressants. Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. If you’re breast-feeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, some antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. Work with your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits of specific antidepressants.