Postpartum depression, mild to major, affects around 20% of women in the first few months after childbirth. As women experience dramatic shifts in hormones during pregnancy and postpartum, signs of depression often go unrecognized.
The baby blues describes a temporary change in mood that affects up to 70% of women in the first postpartum weeks. It consists of the new mothers feeling hypersensitive, anxious, emotional, irritable, and possibly having difficulty to sleep or experience happiness. These feelings tend to dissipate within several days and generally don’t significantly interfere with functioning. If they persist or worsen, postpartum depression may be indicated.
Women who experience postpartum depression may be reluctant to seek help due to the social stigma associated with having a mental health condition, feelings of failure, or fear that the baby will be taken from them. They may also feel subject to the cultural belief that the experience of motherhood should bring only joy and fulfillment. Admitting that being a new mom is an emotional and a challenging transition may make women feel they have failed in this endeavor.
Talking about one’s symptoms with a psychotherapist is a valuable step toward finding relief. Together, the mother and her therapist can find coping mechanisms for the demands of motherhood, ways to re-frame negative thought processes and establish healthy lifestyle habits.