Most new mothers are handed their swaddled baby along with a brochure about postpartum depression (PPD) when they are discharged from the hospital. And while its great that awareness of PPD is growing, each woman's experience of it can vary greatly and include everything from obsessive anxiety, OCD, to a sense of disconnect to unremitting rage.
A tiny brochure simply can't cover the reality of postpartum depression, and without the complete picture of what PPD can look and feel like, many women find themselves experiencing it without even Knowing it.
What Causes PPD?
After childbirth, a woman experiences a dramatic drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which contributes to increased emotions. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland also drop sharply, which can leave women feeling depressed and exhausted.
And speaking of being exhausted, new mothers are sleep-deprived. In the first six months of their baby's life, it is not uncommon for a mother to only average 4 to 5 hours of (disjointed) sleep a night. Over time, this lack of sleep can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability and more. This, in combination with a hormonal shift, can lead to postpartum depression.
Though PPD can led differently for each Individual woman, here are a few of the most common experiences:
A Sense of Dread
Many new mothers experience an inexplicable and ominous feeling that something is just... not right. They have a sense of dread in the pit of their stomach that something terrible was about to happen. Some women may experience a racing heart and tightness in their chest.
A Huge Disconnect
Many new mothers find that they are able lo carry out important daily tasks, but experience a sense of disconnection from their babies and their own sense of motherhood. Some women have described It as feeling numb. They made sure their babies were clean, warm and fed, but they had no real desire to cuddle with them or connect in any meaningful way.
Rage and Resentment
After giving birth, most mothers need a little R&R In the form of rest and relaxation. But many women are surprised when the R&R comes In the form of rage and resentment. This can be one of the hardest and scariest aspects of PPD to deal with.
The rage can be directed at all different kinds of things. You might feel rage about the expectations other people have of you. Rage about missing out on other parts of your life while you become a mother full-time. Rage about how intrusive your workplace is while you are away on leave. Rage for no apparent reason. And, sometimes the feelings of rage turn into feelings of resentment toward your newborn and husband.
Of course, when a new mother feels rage, resentment, and detachment from her child, she naturally feels guilty for feeling these feelings that she doesn't want to feel in the first place. A woman may also feel guilty about doing something for herself, even something as simple as taking a 10-minute bath. And, because PPD does not have to make any sense, a woman can even feel guilty about feeling guilty.
You are Not Alone
When it comes to motherhood, many women feel they have to be absolutely perfect. This makes admitting to anyone that they are suffering from PPD difficult, if not impossible. So, though they are suffering inside, women will put on a good face for the outside world and pretend they are fine— happy even.
It's important that you never feel ashamed to speak your truth. You are not alone, and as soon as you can speak about your experience and what you are feeling, you begin your journey toward healing.
A therapist can help you come out of the darkness and back Into the light by listening to your story, helping you make lifestyle changes, or even discussing medication to get you through the rough patch.