It’s a topic that we tend to overlook when preparing for a baby, because we think it will never happen to us. Or we decide we will cross that bridge when we get there if we get there. It’s a rather depressing and confusing thing to think about when you haven’t experienced it. Amidst all the splendor of dreamy baby preparations, we try not to think about it.
While you can’t completely prepare for every detail about postpartum life and caring for a newborn, some basic understanding of postpartum depression can go a long way toward preventing and handling it.
In this post, I hope to provide you with some basic information, and I hope to provide encouragement if you are struggling. Sometimes, a little affirmation to remind you that you are normal and not isolated in your struggle goes a long way.
What causes postpartum depression? There has been a fair amount of research done on it, and yet we still have so much to learn. Furthermore, the way each woman experiences postpartum depression will be unique. We know that the cause can be physical, mental/emotional, or both. Physically, a woman is recovering from birth, her hormones are readjusting to a new normal, she is likely not getting enough nutrition if she doesn’t have enough help at home, and if she’s breastfeeding, her lactation hormones are regulating. She is also likely to sleep deprived. Emotionally, a woman can simply feel overwhelmed by the demanding and arduous task of caring for a new tiny person, particularly if her partner has returned to work, if she has returned to work, if there isn’t enough support in the home for her, if she is isolated for much of the day, and if circumstances in her life are causing stress.
Symptoms of postpartum depression are pretty simple to observe and it is classified something that can be self-diagnosed. It goes past the baby blues, which generally only last a short time after birth. Postpartum depression is more extreme and it lasts longer. Symptoms can present in a number of different ways, different times and for different reasons in women.
Some general signs to watch for:
- Overall discontent and inability to feel pleasure
- Sleeplessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Desire to hurt yourself or the baby
- Inability to concentrate
- Unexplained crying or irritability
- Mood swings
- Lack of interest
- Panic attacks
Women are more likely to experience PPD if they have:
- A history of depression or postpartum depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Had a cesarean
- Breastfeeding problems
- Financial issues
- Not enough support at home after baby is born
Why do doulas care so much about postpartum depression?
After birth, it’s a standard 6 weeks until a woman sees her provider again for follow up postpartum care. A lot can happen in a couple of days, let alone 6 weeks. Do women routinely see ANY professional during that time? Home birth midwives see their clients several times between birth and 6 weeks, but other providers do not and only 3% of births in the US are attended by home birth midwives and only about 1% in Massachusetts. The other 97% nationwide and 99% statewide are sent home from the hospital a day or two after birth with their new baby and no support or regular contact with a professional for the first 6 weeks of the infant’s life.
What is one of the well-known causes of postpartum depression? Lack of support.
The doula is in the unique position of being a perceptive eye in a sensitive time where there is very little support for women. She can see the mother in her own home, in her element. During that time, the birth doula who attended the mother’s birth will visit with the mother for a postpartum visit, ask her how she is doing, and see if she notices any concerning signs. Most birth doulas tend to stay in touch with their clients long after the birth and they can be a resource, emotional support, and source of encouragement for the new mother.
A postpartum doula can, theoretically, help women prevent or curb postpartum depression. We know that postpartum depression can be caused by breastfeeding problems, stress, lack of support and other emotional stressors, and we know that the postpartum doula helps with all of these. Her job is to take care of the mom and baby so they can figure out life together after the birth. The mother does not need to stress about meals, housework or lack of sleep since the doula helps the mother make sure she has all of those needs are being addressed to the best of her ability. A woman’s stress level goes way down when a postpartum doula is present.
If you are experiencing Postpartum Depression, it’s so important to talk to your care provider. There are a number of ways that it can be handled, and your provider is going to know you and your needs best. There are pharmaceutical medications available as well as nutritional supplements that can help.
Finally, if you are one that is struggling with postpartum depression, hang in there. There is a help and there are available resources to get you through this understandably rocky time. You are no less of a mother because you are struggling with postpartum depression. And with 3 million known sufferers, you are absolutely not alone.
For more information, check out http://www.postpartum.net