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You have always imagined motherhood as a relaxing experience in which you love every minute together with your new child. But you might find yourself feeling nervous, irritable, overwhelmed, or depressed. You may be experiencing postpartum if this can be the case.

“The facts are, we all have this dreamy picture of what it is to have a baby,” says Birdie Gunyon Meyer, RN, MA, president of Postpartum Support International and coordinator of perinatal mood disorders at Clarian Women’s Services in Indianapolis. “But 13 to 20 percent of girls get depression or anxiety” during or after pregnancy.

Postpartum Depression: Why Some Women Get It

Anyone can grow postpartum depression, but the following factors raise your risk:

  • Private or family history of depression, stress, or another mental illness
  • Preceding postpartum depression
  • History of severe premenstrual syndrome
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Persistent pain
  • History of fertility treatments or miscarriage
  • Sudden discontinuation of breastfeeding
  • History of injury or misuse
  • Wounding or unsatisfactory birthing experience
  • Lousy support system
  • Tensions (like marital or financial)
  • Substance abuse

Postpartum Depression: When It Can Strike

Postpartum depression can come any moment from during pregnancy to a year. For after her baby came to be Sarah Brogna, who experienced postpartum depression following the birth of her son, symptoms set in three weeks.

“The initial three weeks I was euphoric, and subsequently the train came rumbling in,” says Brogna.

Postpartum Depression: The Symptoms

Meyer says that women’s encounters with postpartum depression change, and it’s also unlikely that you will identify with all symptoms, but they could include:

  • Stress
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep issues
  • Appetite changes
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Lack of interest in or feeling disconnected from the baby
  • Thoughts of harming the infant
  • Sluggishness
  • Exhaustion
  • Memory loss
  • Sense of guilt or shame
  • Sense of doom
  • Chilling or odd ideas that duplicate in the mind
  • Irritability or anger

Girls with postpartum depression often have an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and loneliness. For Brogna, “The feeling is desolation. It’s this feeling that the entire world is going on without you, you’re never going to feel a lot better, you are never likely to escape it.”

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If you are experiencing postpartum depression symptoms, talk to your physician, who can make it easy for you to find treatment. You’ll be referred to your mental health professional who’ll use psychotherapy (talk therapy), antidepressant drug, or both, and follow your improvement attentively.

Postpartum Depression: Managing Advice

Along with psychotherapy and drugs, these strategies can help you during treatment:

  • Take some “me time.” Meyer says that it is vital for girls that have postpartum depression to take time to do things like “getting , eating right, and exercising.”
  • Consider adding alternative treatments. Complementary and alternative treatments may help, says Meyer, who lists sun, fish oil capsules, nutrition, exercise, aromatherapy, and music therapy among the approaches that have helped some women.
  • Find a support group. It helps to be around women that have experienced postpartum depression, according to Meyer. “In the event you are with them, it makes you feel ordinary,” she says.
  • Say yes. “Take people up on their offers,” says Brogna. Your friends watch the baby to help you sleep and family members will help at home, run errands for you, or be there to listen when you need to talk.
  • Wean slowly. “Discontinuing breastfeeding brings on a hormonal change,” says Meyer. “I constantly recommend that women wean slowly if they are going to stop breastfeeding.”
  • Be patient. Treatment can help, but it may take time before you feel like yourself again. “It took me a full year before I felt remotely ‘normal’ again, and two years before I felt amazing,” says Brogna.

Meyer needs women who might be experiencing postpartum depression to hear her organization’s message: “you’re not alone, you aren’t to blame, and with treatment you will be well.”

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