By Marla K Ruhana, L.M.S.W.
Q: I had a baby three weeks ago. How do I know if I have postpartum depression?
A: Following childbirth, 85-95% of new mothers experience some form of mood complication. Many suffer from symptoms during pregnancy and many women suffer from one of the following after delivery.
The "baby blues"differ from depression in severity and duration. It is normal to have temporary sadness and lack of energy, within the first few weeks of childbirth. It is common for women to experience forgetfulness, tearfulness, anxiety, irritability, fluctuating mood swings, insomnia, sleep deprivation and crying episodes. The baby blues typically subside in a few weeks, when hormonal changes have settled down. You can have bouts of baby blues throughout the first year of your baby's life, but the sadness is temporary and usually managed with support from family and loved ones.
If your symptoms are more severe or last longer, you may be suffering from postpartum depression (PPD), a treatable medical condition, which could become serious if ignored. Women with PPD usually exhibit multiple signs and symptoms every day, for an extended period (unlike baby blues, in which women sporadically feel sad, but are able to resume happiness).
Signs of postpartum depression include:
In very serious cases, women may experience postpartum psychosis, which can be detrimental to a new mother, her children and entire family. Postpartum psychosis can include all of the signs associated with PPD (above), however will include at least a few of the following as well; suicidal or homicidal ideation, hallucinations, delusions, extreme anxiety and hopelessness, mood vacillating between despair and elation.
It is no surprise that women may have difficulty adapting to the transition of motherhood. There are societal norms and pressures fooling women into thinking that motherhood is a constant state of bliss. The transition appears to be especially difficult for new moms who have higher education levels and established careers, perhaps because they are accustomed to more rigid schedules and concrete rewards for a job well done. Depending on a woman's support network of family and friends, there may be added feelings of guilt towards older children and a distorted view that they are neglecting others when caring for newborns. All these stressors make women vulnerable to postpartum depression.
It appears that the demands of motherhood and societal expectations leave many women feeling inadequate and unprepared as they struggle to adjust to their new role. Many women repress these feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy, as they fear the opinions and reactions of others. This appears to be a result of a society that instills the notion that every new mom will transition smoothly into this role. These expectations leave many new moms avoiding other new moms to obtain support as they fear being judged in their silent struggle. New moms seem to compare themselves to other new moms and then become even harder on themselves as a result, only exacerbating their symptoms. Women who have experienced previous perinatal loss may especially be at risk.
Where Can I Find Help?
Tree of Hope Foundation is a local organization, founded by Pam Moffitt, whose sister-in-law struggled with severe PPD. Tree of Hope offers several FREE postpartum support groups. These groups meet weekly, with no referral or advance registration required, and are held Monday-Thursday evenings in Rochester, Troy, West Bloomfield, Commerce Twp and St Clair Shores. For more information, see: www.treeofhopefoundation.org or call 877-HOPE-311.
Download our informational PDF: Free Support Groups for Mothers Struggling With Postpartum Depression.
Leading Area Experts on Postpartum Depression
Psychiatric Services of Grosse Pointe-Dan Guyer, M.D., Psychiatrist 313-885-6400 and Lisa MacLean, M.D. Psychiatrist, 313-874-6613
Marla K. Ruhana, L.M.S.W., Group Facilitator for Tree of Hopes PPD support group in St. Clair Shores, at St. Joan of Arc Church, Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. For more information, call 586-801-4701 or visit www.marlaruhana.com
Testimonials from attendees of PPD group in St. Clair Shores:
"Nothing can prepare you for postpartum depression."
"Share PPD group info with your doctor to help other women."
"I wish I knew of Tree of Hope's PPD groups sooner. I suffered alone for so long."
"Two weeks of no driving made me feel loss of control over my life."
"My husband attends group too. It has saved our marriage."
"Be compliant with medication. Get a new day planner to create a schedule for yourself. Reach out. Get busy. Be proactive in seeking out help. Do not stop attending group when you start to feel better. Continue to attend. Get help in your home at night to assist with sleep deprivation."
For more information on PPD or support programs, please contact Tree of Hope Foundation at 877-HOPE-311, www.treeofhopefoundation.org, or Marla Ruhana at 586-801-4701, www.marlaruhana.com.