Being a new mom is tough, and not just for reasons that first come to mind. Pregnancy and motherhood can take a toll on your mental health. Fluctuating hormones and lack of sleep all contribute to postpartum mood disorders. Here, we take a look at two common maternal mental illnesses that are not talked about enough: postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
So, just how common is postpartum depression?
The CDC estimates that 1 in 9 women experience symptoms, but the data varies by state so it could be as high as 1 in 5. Either way, it’s a lot. Postpartum depression is common, but the symptoms and experience are different for everyone.
There are also certain factors that put you at higher risk – most notably a prior history of depression. “Nobody had mentioned to me that it was more common in those that suffered from depression/anxiety before pregnancy. There’s not enough information out there for pregnant moms before it happens,” says Kim C from our Super Moms Facebook group.
It’s important to emphasize that postpartum depression is different from stress or having a bad day. Every mom experiences stress or a bad day or two, but it’s important to seek help or take extra steps if you experience symptoms of depression.
Some common symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Lasting sad, anxious, or “empty” mood.
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism.
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness.
- Feelings of irritability or restlessness.
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities.
- Loss of energy.
- Problems concentrating, recalling details, and making decisions.
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much.
- Overeating or loss of appetite.
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts.
A lesser-known condition is postpartum anxiety which can have completely different symptoms from depression. Anxiety affects about 10% of new moms.
“I wish I had known postpartum anxiety was a thing! I had heard of postpartum depression but not anxiety. Everything seemed like such a BIG DEAL to overcome but step by step things started to seem okay again. Talking with family helped.” (Lisolette D in our Super Moms Facebook group).
Symptoms of postpartum anxiety include:
- Constant worry
- Feeling that something bad is going to happen
- Racing thoughts
- Disturbances of sleep and appetite
- Inability to sit still
- Dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea
Tips to cope with depression and anxiety:
- Eat nutritious food and stay hydrated. It’s important to keep your body strong and healthy during tough times.
- Exercise. Even if you simply go for a walk around your neighborhood, exercise has been proven to make you feel better and less anxious by releasing endorphins.
- On that same note – get outside. Nature and exercise have calming effects.
- Practice basic self-care. Take a shower, put on clean clothes and fix your hair up a little even if you don’t feel like it.
- Get plenty of sleep. This can be hard with a newborn around, but it’s so important. Find more tips on this here.
- Make time for YOU. Enlist your spouse, a family member, or a friend to look after your little one so you can get in some much needed ‘me time.’ Take a yoga class, get a manicure, or just get dinner with a good friend.
Most importantly, find support and ask for help.
If you have any of the symptoms mentioned in this post, it’s crucial that you seek more information and help. It’s important to remember that this is common, even if it’s not talked about – and that you are not alone. Postpartum Support International provides many resources including a 24-hour helpline and weekly chats with experts. Seeking support from family members, your doctor, or a moms support group are also good options.
Do you have any additional advice on how to manage depression or anxiety? Share it with the community in a comment.