New moms know the emotional roller coaster they experience after the birth of a child, with highs of joy and excitement and the lows of the baby blues. It can often take a full month for hormones to settle down enough that the new mother starts feeling like herself again. Sometimes, though, it takes longer and those baby blues become more severe.
Postpartum depression can last anywhere from four weeks up to a year. Symptoms may include sadness, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed, feeling agitated, not wanting to be comforted, withdrawal from normal activities, being easily frustrated, and a feeling of emptiness. Other signs of postpartum depression may be:
Pregnancy and giving birth are hard work, and it makes sense that new mothers are exhausted. But when you are unable to find the motivation or energy to do the activities you normally would, that is something more serious. Feeling behind in tasks with a new little one will happen, but not being able to care for the baby is a sign something may be wrong.
New mothers, especially first-time mothers, may feel inexperienced and they learn as they go. It's easy to even feel overwhelmed by all there is to do with real life, plus caring for a newborn. But feeling as if there is something inherently wrong or that you are not good enough may be a sign of some depressive symptoms.
Learning to care for a new baby is a challenge, even with the delights of falling in love with your little one. Moments of holding your baby, gazing with good eye contact, and touching your baby are all part of the bonding that is as important as feeding time and diaper changing. If you do not want to hold your baby, look at your baby, or touch your baby, these may be signs of postpartum depression.
Changes in sleeping patterns
This is more than just the painful adjustment to suddenly caring for a newborn through the night. This is insomnia of not being able to sleep at all even when the baby is quiet or sleeping all day long and unable to participate in family activities.
Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
All mothers have (many) moments of feeling overwhelmed by their role and all the tasks it entails. Even the most loving mother will, at times, be frustrated with her baby or dislike choices her child makes. Every mother has moments of feeling inadequate because being a mother is a learning process as much for her as for the child. But thoughts of harming yourself or your baby is absolutely the time to seek professional help, and is a sign to contact your doctor, a counselor, or (in an emergency) call 911.
Being a new mother can be wonderful and exciting, but also a physical and emotional challenge. Hormones and other circumstances can make these feelings bigger, whether happy feelings or sad feelings. But when the sad feelings get big and don't go away, there is good help available for new mothers.