Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Many women don't even recognize that they have Postpartum depression or fully understand it. The name itself is quite confusing. Depression, meaning feeling sad and hopeless is only one of the many ways this altered emotional state can manifest itself. If your feelings are strange and unsettling to you, even if you're not a full blown cut and dry case, you still may have the TEMPORARY condition of postpartum depression. Here are some symptoms to look for:

1. Feelings of Inadequacy-this is bigger than the garden-variety feelings that you are a nobody because you can't seem to get the bed made before your husband comes home or because you still haven't lost your pregnancy weight. This refers to a belief that this job of being some one's mom is too big for you and that you'll fail. It also applies to comparing yourself to all the other new mothers you know and coming up less-than every time.

2. Difficulty Making Decisions-not even talking about the hard decisions, like when to wean the baby or what college to send her to, I'm talking about not being able to decide whether to go out or stay in, buy broccoli or cauliflower, get dressed or stay in bed.

3. Fear of Being Alone
-this is pretty similar to the feelings of inadequacy. There's a lot of hormonally challenged new mommies that don't want to be left alone because that means they are alone with the baby that they aren't sure they can care for.

4. Fantasies of disasters of Bizarre Fears
-this is pretty much having disaster daydreams or nightmares that the baby gets hurt in your care. Perhaps that you don't put them in the car seat properly, lose them, accidentally drop them off a balcony, etc.

5. No Interest in Previously Enjoyable Activities-for quite awhile after the baby is born you won't have time for activities you previously enjoyed and you don't really have any interest in them. Near the end of the first year if you still feel a general lack of enthusiasm about everything including your former pleasures it may be cause for concern.

6. Breast Feeding Problems-please don't automatically assume that just because you have a hard time mastering the art of nursing that you're suffering from Postpartum depression. It's a tricky task. Ninety-nine percent of the time, breast-feeding problems are just that: normal responses to something very challenging to learn. Some women do however have a difficult time relaxing enough to allow their 'letdown' mechanism to work so the breast can release milk and this can be a sign of Postpartum anxiety.

7. Headaches, stomachaches, nausea, muscle aches-OK, so with motherhood naturally comes aches and pains and tons of bottles of ibuprofen. What you should e suspicious of are recurring aches and pains that seem to be unrelated to any known illness or injury.

8. Nervousness, Shaking or Trembling-the combination of your nerves, lack of sleep and exotic hormone cocktail you're on can make you as jangly as too many visits to Starbucks. Don't' be frightened but do be careful around the baby; we don't want anything valuable to get dropped and broken. Also, don't compound the problem by drinking beverages with caffeine in them, no matter how much you think you need that boost. It is also a good idea to call your doctor if this starts happening to you so that he or she can rule out infection or hemorrhaging.

9. Compulsive Behaviors, Checking and Rechecking things-once again, there is a thin line between ordinary neuroses and problematical ones. I don't think there's a mother out there that hasn't obsessed that the baby will stop breathing if we don't pay attention to it every minute. How much hand washing is too much? How many times did you check to see if the kettle was off. Some double checking is common but if you're becoming obsessive about it, the people around you have probably noticed and they will tel you.

10. Avoidance of the Baby-this is the scariest manifestations of Postpartum depression. This is the one that shames moms, makes them feel wicked and feel like they'll never be an adequate mother. Many mothers turn the baby over to a nanny, loved one or family member when this is very serious. the babies are often just fine but the mothers are dangerously depressed. The longer they keep their emotional and physical distance from the baby, the harder it is to close the gap. This is not about how much you love your baby, it's about how much you doubt yourself.

We are disillusioned with how pregnancy and childbirth is suppose to be. We watch movies of a mother giving birth and the next scene she's wheeled off to go home and already nursing and everything is wonderful. This story is responsible for more Postpartum depression than you can imagine. Maternity wards are crying right this minute because they feel the have failed in giving birth because nothing wen according to this story. Depending on where you live and what hospital you deliver at you have about a 20 to 40 percent chance of delivering your baby by C-section. That simply means that for about 1/3 of women, the little fairy tale birth story is dust. Some us labor for what feels like weeks and we're so exhausted by the time we're supposed to push that a nurse has to sit on our stomach to help get the baby out. Several of us fall apart and start accusing our husbands of creating this torture for us in the first place. And where is the part about whining and weeping in fear and pain? Giving birth is painful, messy, hard and unpredictable but the stories we treasure during pregnancy include none of that.

Help is as close as a phone call. Start with the nonprofessionals first. Hire a sitter. If you can't afford one beg a grandma or friend to take care of the baby for at least a couple of hours. My recommendation for those precious hours is to nap, but if you feel that a drive in the car or a soak in the tub would make you feel better, then knock yourself out. Whatever you do, however, do not waste this chance at recapturing your sanity by doing the dishes or running errands. Most important, don't feel guilty about taking a break from the baby. It's important to have some you time, even if that you time is with the baby. Make plans to go for walks everyday with your friend down the street. Walking and talking provides the perfect therapy. There's no doubt that fresh air, a change of scene and dropping unsightly fat all contribute to an improvement in our emotional state. When you exercise your body releases endorphins and you just get happy. If you can add a little bliss to your life through the natural release of chemicals in your brain, you may be well on your way to finding your way back to well-being. Hang out with your girlfriends, especially the one's with babies too. One word of caution, if you find that you have acquired a friend in a mommy who makes you feel like you're in a parenting contest with her. Dump her and her perfect baby immediately. Any woman who seems to have everything under control at all times is lying to you and to herself. You need a friend who knows that real acceptance and friendship are only possible between two living, feeling, honest human beings.

Ultimately the solution may include a prescription for Prozac or Zoloft. This prospect may intimidate you or even offend you because of opinions about these drugs that you made before you understood how disturbing lasting depression could be, but if you're suffering you may understand the need for these. Throughout the entire experience of Postpartum depression one of the most important things you can do is to avoid isolation. Whether you just stay in touch with your old friends, make new one, go to a mommy and me class or connect with moms and grandmas that have already been through it. You are not alone in this!

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