Perinatal depression can be a dark and isolating experience, leaving new parents feeling lost and struggling to cope.
It's important to remember that perinatal depression is treatable and with help, you can overcome it. With the right support, you can start to feel better and create a strong, loving bond with your baby.
What is Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression is a type of depression that occurs during pregnancy or after giving birth.
Perinatal depression is usually more intense than “baby blues” and is likely to last longer than the first week or so after birth. It can have a significant impact on your daily life and your ability to care for both yourself and your child(ren).
How Does Perinatal Depression Differ From the “Baby Blues”?
Perinatal depression and the "baby blues" are two distinct conditions that are often confused, but they have some important differences.
The baby blues:
- Are a common and temporary condition that affects up to 80% of new mothers within the first few days to a week after childbirth.1
- Cause feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, and fatigue that typically resolve on their own within two weeks of delivery.
- Are thought to be related to hormonal changes and the stress of adjusting to motherhood.
- Occurs during pregnancy or after delivery and can last much longer than the baby blues.
- Causes symptoms that are similar to the baby blues but more intense, persistent, and severe.
- Can have a significant impact on a woman's ability to care for herself and her baby, and it can affect the bond between a mother and her child.
The key difference between the two conditions is their duration and severity. Baby blues are a common and temporary experience, while perinatal depression is a more serious condition that requires medical attention.
How Common is Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression is a common condition and affects 10% to 20% of women.2 A small percentage of new parents, around 0.1-0.2%, may also experience symptoms of psychosis along with depression. This is more likely for first-time mothers, those with a history of depression or bipolar disorder, or those with family members who have bipolar disorder.3
What Does Perinatal Depression Feel Like?
Do you ever feel like your emotions are all over the place during pregnancy or after having a baby? That's perinatal depression.
Here's what it feels like:
- Tired but can't sleep, struggling with eating, and no longer enjoying things you used to love.
- Persistent sadness, hopelessness, and tearfulness or inability to cry.
- Frustration and irritability that can lead to snapping at loved ones and overwhelming guilt.
- Anxiety that worsens the depression symptoms.
- On top of any usual bodily changes associated with pregnancy, you may start to have unexplained headaches, aches, pains, and cramps.
These symptoms can make daily life feel like a challenge and can impact your relationship with your loved ones.
How Does Perinatal Depression Affect Bonding With Your Baby?
When you're struggling with perinatal depression, it can be tough to muster up the energy and positive emotions to connect with your little one. You might feel like you're going through the motions of caring for them but without the joy and love that comes naturally.
Perinatal depression can also cause feelings of guilt and shame, making you feel like you're not fit to be a parent. This can lead to negative thoughts and self-doubt, making it even harder to bond with your baby.
Additionally, perinatal depression can impact your ability to respond to your baby's needs, leading to a disconnect in the special relationship between mother and child.
How Can I Help Myself If I Have Perinatal Depression?
When you’re unwell, helping yourself can feel incredibly difficult, especially if you’re also trying to help a baby that relies on you almost constantly.
Here are some steps you can take to support yourself and overcome perinatal depression:
Reach out for support. Talking to someone you trust about how you're feeling can make a huge difference. Whether it's a friend, family member, or therapist, having someone to listen to and support you can help you feel less isolated and more connected.
Practice self-care. Taking care of yourself is an important part of managing perinatal depression. This can include things like eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, and doing activities you enjoy.
Ask for help. Asking for help with daily tasks and caring for your baby can take a lot of pressure off and allow you to focus on your own well-being. Don't be afraid to reach out to friends and family for support, or consider hiring a postpartum doula or caregiver to help you.
Consider therapy. Talking to a mental health professional can be a powerful tool in overcoming perinatal depression. A therapist can help you understand and manage your symptoms, and provide you with practical coping strategies to support you in your recovery.
Medication. If your symptoms are particularly severe, your doctor may suggest a combination of therapy and medication. Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat perinatal depression and can be a helpful tool in managing your symptoms.
Join a support group. Connecting with others who are going through similar experiences can be comforting and empowering. Joining a perinatal depression support group can provide you with a sense of community and help you feel less isolated.
What To Do If You Have Thoughts Of Hurting Yourself or Your Baby
Reach out to a loved one. It's important to have a support system in place. Let a close friend or family member know what you're going through. They can offer love and comfort, and can also assist you in getting the help you need.
Contact your healthcare provider. If you're feeling overwhelmed and in crisis, reach out to your healthcare provider right away. They can offer support and connect you with the appropriate resources.
Talk to an expert. Talking to a trained counselor can provide a sense of immediate relief and comfort.
Call a crisis helpline. National hotlines like the 988 Crisis and Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Postpartum Support International (1-800-944-4773) offer support and resources 24/7.
Check into a hospital or treatment center. In severe cases, it may be necessary to seek inpatient treatment. If you feel like you're in immediate danger, go to your nearest hospital or call 988.
More resources are listed in the Resources area of the app, as well.
Remember Your Worth
When perinatal depression takes hold, it can be easy to feel like you're not worthy or deserving of love and happiness. You may be consumed by negative thoughts and feelings, and feel like you're not enough as a mother or partner.
But, it's important to remember that these thoughts are not true. They are simply the result of the depression clouding your perception and making it difficult to see your own worth.
You are strong, resilient, and capable of overcoming this. And, most importantly, you are worthy of love and happiness. No matter what your mind tells you in the moment, you are deserving of a life filled with joy, love, and fulfillment.
So, take a deep breath, remind yourself of your strength and resilience, and hold onto the knowledge that you are worthy.
You've got this, and you will come out the other side feeling like yourself again.
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1 Baby Blues After Pregnancy. March of Dimes. https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/postpartum/baby-blues-after-pregnancy
2 Perinatal depression: A review. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. https://www.ccjm.org/content/87/5/273
3 Postpartum Psychosis. National Health Service (NHS). https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-partum-psychosis/