What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
When a woman who recently gave birth is feeling down and depressed and her eating and sleeping habits are changing, she may have postpartum depression.
She may feel sadness, moodiness, and anger, and cry a lot. There may be feelings of hopelessness, like: “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be. I’m not the mother I thought I would be; this is never going to get better.” A woman may have passive suicidal thoughts such as, “The world would be better without me,” or actual thoughts of harming herself or her baby.
She may be experiencing a lot of self-doubt or self-recrimination, and there also may be a significant worrying aspect to the depression.
What does that worrying aspect and self-doubt look like?
Having a baby is a huge life transition, so of course there is going to be worrying that is new, even if it’s the third baby. But with postpartum depression, it’s a kind of worrying that’s hard to shake off and monopolizes the mind. It gets very repetitive. The mother may worry about dropping the baby. Or she may experience self-doubt and have thoughts like, “It’s my fault the baby didn’t nap so long” or “I didn’t do the right thing and now there’s a rash.” There may be a lot of self-blame.
What are ways to combat those thoughts?
A lot of tools are available to help people with worrying thoughts. They take a bit of practice but can be very helpful.
One is to keep a worry book for such thoughts, jot them down, and return to them when one is not as emotional or taken over by worry. Then evaluate how realistic these worries are, and if they are, discuss them with a pediatrician, obstetrician, or someone else in your support system. Another is to practice being in the moment, which can help slow down the mind and move it out of the worrying mode. For example, focus on sensory experiences — smells, touch, tastes, sounds — for 30 seconds, and breathe deeply if that feels comfortable. Practice this several times a day so that you can use this tool as a lever to be in the moment and help slow down the mind. Seeing a mental health professional for advice on other tools can be very helpful as well.