You are not alone. A little over 13% of women have postpartum depression (PPD) in the United States, according to America’s Health Rankings. Feeling a little blue after giving birth is considered a normal reaction. The “baby blues” can include crying spells, mood swings, trouble sleeping, and anxiety. These symptoms may start within a few days after the baby is born and could last up to two weeks.
Some new moms may experience a severe, longer-lasting form of depression called postpartum depression or PPD. PPD should not be considered a character flaw, indicate weakness in the mother, or be construed as something negative toward the mother. It is a complication of giving birth that consists of several factors.
While PPD can be difficult for a new mother to cope with, there are healthy ways in which she can cope with it without self-medicating.
Postpartum depression can start with the baby blues. Symptoms for this are sadness, mood swings, crying, trouble sleeping, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, lack of concentration, irritability, and appetite problems.
The Mayo Clinic identifies the symptoms of postpartum depression as:
PPD signs or symptoms are more severe and may develop within the first weeks after giving birth, during pregnancy, or later, and can last up to a year after birth. These are clear indications that you or the new mother you care about has PPD.
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Contrary to what you may think, some new dads experience PPD also. This is called paternal postpartum depression. New fathers may be feeling fatigued, sad, overwhelmed, anxious, or have changes in sleeping and eating patterns. Young fathers, those with a history of depression, and those who are struggling financially are at a higher risk of developing PPD. Fathers with PPD should not be seen as being weak and incapable. They are experiencing trouble adjusting to their new life and responsibilities.
The American Academy of Pediatricians mentions some of the risk factors in which a father can develop PPD. These are:
The most effective way to cope is to consult with your doctor. They can advise you on how to best treat PPD. Talk therapy, also called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), is one method of treatment. CBT helps you become aware of negative or inadequate thinking so that you can see difficult situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively. It is often employed when treating depression and learning how to manage life’s stressful situations—like coping with a new baby and what that brings.
There are doctor-prescribed medications that can help in managing PPD symptoms, which are not harmful to the breastfeeding infant.
There are several reasons why you may think that self-medicating with substances could help you manage PPD.
While those may seem like good enough reasons to drink alcohol, have some cigarettes, or take drugs, substance use after giving birth can be harmful to you, your baby, and your partner.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “exposure to alcohol above moderate levels through breast milk could be damaging to an infant’s development, growth, and sleep patterns.” It also affects the mother’s judgment and can create safety problems. The CDC also says that excessive drinking (more than one alcoholic drink per day) can decrease breast milk flow.
Drugs found in breast milk can cause the baby to experience adverse effects, such as:
If those aren’t compelling reasons to stop self-medicating, then here are a few more:
New mothers and fathers with postpartum depression should seek alternative avenues to cope with PPD, rather than self-mediation. To get you started, here are a few suggestions:
Serenity at Summit provides help for people struggling with mental health disorders and is available to help you stop self-medicating with substances. It only takes a phone call to find a safer, healthier way to cope with postpartum depression.
America's Health Rankings. Postpartum Depression in the United States. Retrieved from https://www.americashealthrankings.org/explore/health-of-women-and-children/measure/postpartum_depression/state/ALL
Mayo Clinic.(2018, September 1)Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376623
American Academy of Pediatricians. healthychildren,org. (2018, December 17) Dads Can Get Depression During and After Pregnancy, Too. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/delivery-beyond/Pages/Dads-Can-Get-Postpartum-Depression-Too.aspx
Mayo Clinic. (2019, March 16) Cognitive behavior therapy. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
CDC. (2019, December 28) Breastfeeding. Alcohol. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/vaccinations-medications-drugs/alcohol.html
Verywell Mind. (2020, April 20) Dangers of Drug Use when Breastfeeding. Hartney, E. BSc., MSc., MA, PhD. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/can-i-combine-drugs-and-breastfeeding-22054