What Does Postpartum Depression Feel Like?
Most people have a basic understanding of what postpartum depression (PPD) is. However, it’s become such an overused term that it’s easy to mistake it for the “baby blues” or try to downplay it because you think it’s normal. In reality, PPD doesn’t have to completely take over your life after giving birth. The more you understand the signs, symptoms, and what it actually feels like, the easier it will be for you to get the help and support you need.
Postpartum depression is so much more than the baby blues. With that in mind, let’s dig deeper into what it feels like and what you can do if you’re experiencing some of those feelings.
Separating Normal Feelings from Signs of Postpartum Depression
Feeling a little overwhelmed after bringing your new baby home for the first time is perfectly normal. If it’s your first child, you might feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing, and you’re going to be stressed trying to make sure everything is “perfect.” You’re going to be running on very little sleep.
You might notice changes in your appetite, and you’re sure to see changes in your sleeping habits. You might even start to experience the “baby blues,” which cause symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and even sadness. All of these things are normal. Although they might not be “fun,” and you can certainly talk to your doctor about them, don’t let them overwhelm you too much. Find the support you need, take care of yourself, and take comfort in knowing these issues won’t last forever.
Recognizing the Signs of PPD
So, how can you tell when you’ve gone beyond the baby blues? What does postpartum depression really feel like? You might experience many of the same symptoms. It’s not uncommon to deal with anxiety, restlessness, sadness, or even physical issues like headaches and digestive issues. However, there are a few key differences.
Postpartum depression can also make you feel immense guilt or shame. You might start to question whether you’re a good mother. You might have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, which can spiral into even more guilt.
Some mothers dealing with PPD also struggle to connect with their little ones. You might experience a lack of motivation when it comes to feeding them or even spending time with them. If you’re experiencing any of those symptoms lasting for more than two weeks, there’s a good chance you’re struggling with PPD.
What Can You Do?
First, recognize that having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad mother. It’s not something you can control or “choose” to have. While some women are at a greater risk of developing the condition than others based on factors like support, extreme stress, or a family history of depression, anyone can experience it.
The best thing you can do is to take care of yourself right now. That might seem counterproductive when you have a newborn, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. Prioritize your health and mental well-being. Lean on your partner, friends, and family for support. Let people help you through this time so you can eventually become the mother you really want to be.
It can also be helpful to seek out professional mental health help. Working with a therapist can help you develop a better understanding of your PPD. You’ll also learn how to manage your symptoms and eventually overcome the intrusive thoughts causing so much depression.
The good news? PPD doesn’t last forever. But you can get control over it much faster if you’re willing to take a step forward and seek the help you deserve.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey , New York, and Pennsylvania via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.