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The Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Signs & Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

By Sheila Duffy, Staff

How do you know if you have postpartum depression, or are experiencing a difficult adjustment or even normal feelings? Do all new moms feel like this? Why doesn’t anyone talk about what it is really like?

These are just a few commonly asked questions when new moms call our support line. They are often confused as to why they are feeling the way they are feeling. Most of us hold the same belief before we have our kids, “This is supposed to be a happy time.” And if our pregnancy was unexpected, or we weren’t entirely sure this is what we wanted, we can feel even more shame.

So when is it postpartum depression? And when and how do we know that we need to reach out, see our doctor or go on medication?

Pacific Post Partum Support Society believes that it is rarely one issue that is contributing to your distress, most likely it is many issues. Some of which are outlined here in our philosophy:

Our Society believes that PPD/A is a family and social issue with factors such as isolation, poverty, lack of child care and the stressful nature of mothering playing important contributing roles.

Some of what you may experience as a new mom is “common.” After having a baby, many women realize they had no idea what it was really going to be like. And because at first it can be kind of like being in shock, as the changes are so sudden and so huge, it takes awhile to settle in to this new job and this new life. It may also be confusing because the media often uses “postpartum depression” as an umbrella term for anything from a difficult adjustment, the baby blues, anxiety, to sometimes postpartum psychosis, a completely different illness that can happen when we have a baby, but which is not postpartum depression.

So how do we know? One way is to monitor and pay attention to how long the feelings last. Do they come and go; are you still able to function, or is it debilitating? A rule of thumb is: generally if it lasts longer than a couple of weeks, then it may be PPD/A and it is really important to let someone know, either your doctor, public health nurse, your partner or a trusted friend. Many people call us to talk about how they are feeling as a first step, sometimes that call can be all they need to begin the journey towards feeling better. There is also a questionnaire called the EPDS that you can access on our website or through your Doctor or Public Health Nurse. Please discuss the results with a health professional. This is not a diagnosis, but it can help to know what steps to take to increase support and make sure you are getting the help you need.

What are some of the common symptoms of PPD/A;

  • Feeling isolated, either because you are alone, you feel alone in how you feel, you are disconnected or just not able to let anyone know;
  • Sleep is disrupted, often because of baby and feeding, but for many moms they are unable to get back to sleep, or get to sleep in the first place, or they may be just wanting to do nothing else but sleep;
  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. If you have PPD/A, these feelings are very intense;
  • Scary and intrusive thoughts. Many women who are experiencing anxiety postpartum will have thoughts sometimes described as “flashes” of ideas or images of harm coming to their baby, sometimes it is that they have inflicted harm. The thoughts are very alarming and distressing for Mom, as she is wanting to keep her baby safe from harm, she wonders why she would have them and what they mean. Please read more about intrusive thoughts;
  • Overly concerned for baby and not able to relax;
  • Worrying and anxious about lots of things;
  • Feeling angry and irritable;
  • Anxiety or panic attacks;
  • Some women have suicidal thoughts; it is important to reach out and let someone know as you deserve to feel better and there is treatment and support available.

Many women and dads can feel some of these feelings some of the time, but they are fleeting or they don’t last more than a few days. For some people if it is a difficult adjustment, getting more sleep, getting more support, having someone to talk to about feelings can be all it takes to feel better. For others, it may be more complex and, therefore, important to get the right support. We encourage anyone who is wondering to call us, or reach out to someone who knows and understands postpartum issues; there is no need to go through this alone. The good news is that everyone gets better!

We believe that we are meant to have and raise our children within a community of support. Our society now is often fragmented and support that used to come from extended family is missing for many of us, we need to reach out to others in the community to help us, whether we have PPD/A or not.

Through mutual aid and emotional support, women are empowered to engineer their own recovery and to learn skills of self-care which encourage healthy life choices for themselves and their families.





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