I want to talk about something that is extremely taboo in families. Even more taboo than views on religion and abortion. Some people cannot even comprehend how this can be a “thing” — even the survivors who are labeled with its diagnoses.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is the increased sadness and depression in new mothers or fathers after childbirth. What “should” be a happy and joyous time for a family becomes dark and sad, isolating and irritable. It is not just the new stress that comes with taking care of a newborn, but a whole new level of fatigue or loss of interest in simply living life.
The symptoms associated with PPD can interfere with the mother, father, or caretaker’s ability to care for the child. Daily tasks may begin to feel stressful and challenging; activities that used to be enjoyable may feel “dull.” An overall depressed mood, loss of appetite, and not to mention the feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy, that may come with recognizing these feelings in the first place are a few indicators of PPD.
PPD typically shows its face between a few days after birth to a couple weeks, or even months after birth. In some cases, PPD can begin to develop even before the child is born. As you can see, there are ranges to its length, and cases should be taken case-by-case or situationally.
In some cases, postpartum psychosis (PPP) can develop quickly after birth. The difference between PPD and PPP are the delusional thoughts and paranoia that come with PPP. Thoughts to harm the new baby or the individual themselves are also symptoms of PPP. Disturbing and suspicious thoughts may begin to race, as well as symptoms of mania could arise (easily distracted, increased energy/agitation, “jumpiness”).
Although more common in new mothers, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis can affect new fathers as well. I have also heard of a couple cases where the mother did not experience PPD or PPP with her first or second child, but experienced it with the third or fourth, creating copious amounts of confusion and guilt.
It is important to see a doctor if the depressive symptoms last longer than two weeks after the birth of the child. However, immediate help is needed if any thoughts of harming the child, other children, loved ones, or self-harm arise.
I am not a mom. I absolutely do not understand the hormonal and bodily changes that come with being pregnant, giving birth, and then taking care of that child after birth. However, I have met some amazing women and mothers who were filled all the way from their toes to their heads with fear, embarrassment, and sadness when they began to feel depressed and/or began to have intrusive thoughts about harming their children after birth. It can literally happen to anyone; first-time mothers/fathers, second-, third-, fourth-time parents, etc.
Their courage, strength, and love for their children is what got the mothers I know through that terrible time in their lives. Although the depression or intrusive thoughts were there, they still got help and wanted to get better — that was their true heart and character, not the symptoms.