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Postpartum Depression: My Experience and What I Learned

postpartum depression

By Devin Wurman, DPT

Untreated depression is the number one complication of pregnancy and yet research shows that many healthcare providers do not ask new mothers about feeling depressed or anxious during their pregnancy.

Since May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month, I thought it would be appropriate and timely to share my own experience with postpartum depression and what helped me through that difficult time.

It was eight years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. Like most soon-to-be parents, I was both excited and anxious. I had a relatively easy pregnancy, but it’s what happened afterwards that nobody warned me about and I wasn’t really prepared to handle at first.

My husband got a new job that summer my daughter was to be born and moved down to the D.C. area ahead of me. I continued to work and get ready for the big move which happened after I had the baby. Fast forward five months, I’m the new mom of a healthy baby girl and excited for our upcoming journey.

But one week after my husband had to return to work, my world turned upside down. To be honest, I don’t remember feeling a lot of “new mom happiness” during those first few months of my daughter’s life. I spent most of my days crying and feeling helpless. My father basically moved in with me to help and my mother and stepfather would come by often to take my dog out and try to calm me down. I know that it’s hard for people to truly understand depression and I know my family was only trying to help when they tried to give me advice. I heard a lot of these: ‘Go for a walk and get some sun,’ ‘Try to eat something, you’ll feel better’, ‘You can do this.’  But all I remember was feeling so sad and tired. I kept saying to myself, ‘I’m such a horrible mother. I don’t even want to hold my baby!’

Postpartum depression is consuming. It enveloped my entire being. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or enjoy my new baby. Even now, when I see pictures of her from those first few months, I feel sad because I don’t remember those moments. It’s reasons like these that make it so important for women to speak up when they feel like something is wrong after their pregnancy. Postpartum depression can emerge up to two months following childbirth. For those of you thinking about having a baby or getting ready to have one, some postpartum depression symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Loss of interest or pleasure in life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Episodes of crying
  • Not being able to bond with your baby
  • Significant feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and loss of interest in usual activites

Most importantly, do not wait to seek help and never feel ashamed to ask for it. I’m thankful for the help I got from a medical professional after that first pregnancy. They prescribed some medication, I received therapy and after a few weeks, I started to feel much better. I also went back to work which helped me in this healing process. It got me to be active again and gave me more daily purpose.

I am now the mother of two girls, four years apart.  I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to have a second child because I was so fearful of going through postpartum depression again. But my second experience was very different. I was able to prepare myself better and get help during the pregnancy which allowed me to enjoy those first few exhausting months right after she was born.

It’s important to understand that postpartum depression is different from the “baby blues” you’ve probably heard about. This is a mild form of depression that occurs within a few days after childbirth and lasts up to a week. Since May is National Maternal Depression Month, I wanted to bring more awareness to a very serious issue that unfortunately is not talked about enough in the general population. A good resource on the web for support: www.postpartumprogress.com