Everyone knows that the Baby Blues are common. After birth, mothers are sleep deprived, the are nursing all hours of the day and night, they are exhausted from the work of labor and delivery, the body is starting to produce milk. There are a lot of things that happen in the first few weeks after birth that can leave a mother feeling tired and overwhelmed. This is pretty “normal”, or well, common enough that we can just call it normal. Some women have a smooth, graceful transition with effortless breastfeeding, labors that hardly seem like work at all, get sleep when their baby sleeps, and the baby seems to be on a fantastic schedule from day one, and…well, the majority of us are jealous!
For others, the transition into motherhood is a rocky one. These moms usually have higher maintenance babies that have no discernible pattern, they are left exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed. They don’t wake up in the morning and think “Oh jeez, I have to take a shower again today”, their thoughts are focused more on the minutiae, where the task of taking a shower becomes “Oh no, I have to get up out of bed, use the bathroom, take my jammies off, heat up the water in the shower, get in, get ALL of me wet, find the shampoo bottle, struggle with the cap, pour enough in my hand, scrub my hair, then sit there forever rinsing it out, THEN I have to find the conditioner….” What, to most of us, is a simple “one-step” activity – taking a shower – becomes a monumental list of activities that all must be performed.
For women with depression, the minutiae of the day wear them down and they think “Didn’t I just do this??? Didn’t I just take a shower yesterday? Didn’t I go to the bathroom already? I have to wake up again?” It’s more than just being too busy or tired with a new baby that keeps them from taking a shower. It’s that a shower has become too great of a task. Even the thought of a shower has too many components and the mother’s mind wants to shut down at the thought of so much work.
This is a sign of postpartum depression and and a sign that she needs help. Professional help. There’s no shame in that. Our hormones can wreak havoc on our bodies and through off the neurotransmitters in our mind.
Most of us are familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression, but sometimes these take on a more unique presentation. There can be a perseveration of an idea. One that she just cannot escape from. For me, I experienced this with my second child; however I did not recognize it for what it was. I was paranoid. I thought that if I brought my baby to the doctor he would inject her with something that would kill her. As I was driving down the highway, I experienced tremendous fear and anxiety that someone driving by would take out a gun and shoot her as they passed by. People in public were suspect as well. They may stab her as they walk by. I was fiercely protective of her and preoccupied with concerns, regardless of how irrational, that anyone could harm my baby. We did not put a birth announcement in the paper – a common practice 20 years ago – because I was convinced that it would alert baby snatchers who would then break into my house and steal her from me.
Depression can be more than just exaggerated baby blues. It can manifest in ways you do not expect. If you, or your partner, have any concerns about your thoughts and feelings, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible. Do not try to treat postpartum depression on your own. Respect your body by allowing a neutral third party to give a fair, unbiased assessment of what is going on.
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Even if your symptoms do not fit into the typical depression symptoms, talk to your provider. Here at our birthing center, women with mild PPD can be treated holistically with homeopathics, herbs, supplements, and a variety of other modalities; however they are monitored much more closely to ensure that the treatments are working and that they are not a risk to themselves or others. Not all depression needs to be treated with medications that can affect breastfeeding. Medications are essential in some cases, but not all. Remember, you can call your provider 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Offices have on-call staff for their off hours, and you should NEVER hesitate to call if you feel that you may harm yourself or your baby.
Try these resources to learn more about PPD or to find a counselor/group. You can also call your insurance company to ask for referrals.
To learn more about giving your baby a beautiful beginning, visit www.beautifulbeginningbirth.com