“Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth,” according to Postpartum Support International. That means 15 out of every 100 new mothers experience guilt and sadness that they don’t understand.
And the mother could be your neighbor, your best friend, or it might even be you.
It wasn’t until a year after her first son was born that Jennifer Norris-Hale, founder of Mission: Motherhood and advocate for maternal mental health, discovered that those feelings were postpartum depression.
Jennifer’s journey became the seed that blossomed into Mission: Motherhood.
Women can experience powerful emotions after the birth of their baby — being a new mother is a time of happiness, joy, and excitement. And many women are surprised that they also can experience feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt, and sadness.
These feelings might accompany physical changes, such as mood swings, crying spells, and insomnia.
For many women and their families, these signs aren’t acknowledged.
In 2023, there continues to be a lack of awareness around maternal mental health conditions, such as postpartum depression and anxiety.
As a new mother, facing these feelings alone can be daunting and scary.
That’s why Mission: Motherhood offers free peer-to-peer support to mothers, no matter where they are in their motherhood journey.
Peer support provides an opportunity to connect with and share with other mothers while decreasing shame and stigma around maternal mental health.
Postpartum depression and anxiety can come on quickly or take over a year to develop, so it’s essential to know and understand the signs and symptoms.
There is no one cause for postpartum depression and anxiety.
The onset of symptoms could be from a combination of factors, including the sudden change in hormones after childbirth, economic stressors, overwhelming feelings of responsibility, lack of sleep, and past health conditions.
In this post, you’ll learn what postpartum depression and anxiety are, how each differs from the “baby blues” and over-worrying, and when to ask for help.
You might wonder, “How do I know if I have postpartum depression and not the baby blues?”
It’s easy to confuse postpartum depression with baby blues. The symptoms are similar, yet postpartum depression lingers beyond a few weeks, is more extreme, and is often accompanied by anxiety.
Signs of postpartum depression may include:
- Experiencing prolonged sadness
- Crying suddenly and often
- Withdrawing from social circles
- Trouble bonding with your baby
- Changes in appetite
- A noticeable loss of energy
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, and guilt
Just like postpartum depression can be incorrectly labeled as “the baby blues,” postpartum anxiety can be seen as being “overly worried.”
Naturally, there’s some worry after having a baby — welcoming a new life into the world is a big deal.
However, with postpartum anxiety, the feelings of worry don’t just come and go. They are intense and ongoing.
Women experiencing postpartum anxiety may fear leaving their baby alone with a trusted caregiver. They might also stay up all night, fearing something will happen to their baby.
Signs of postpartum anxiety may include:
- Feeling as if you’re in constant danger
- Experiencing shortness of breath
- A feeling of restlessness that doesn’t go away
- Having racing thoughts
- Obsessing over worse-case scenarios
- Checking the same things repeatedly
- Panic attacks
Mothers, fathers, and non-birthing parents can all experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
As author Linda Wooten says, “Being a mother is discovering strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you never knew existed.”
With Reverence, Awareness, Inclusion, Support, and Education, we can each find our strengths and conquer our fears — it takes a village to R.A.I.S.E. a mother.
When to ask for help with postpartum depression and anxiety
Know that you’re not alone if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms.
Seeking support can help you understand and move through postpartum depression and anxiety so that you can fully enjoy the experience of motherhood.
Start by speaking with your partner or a friend. Reach out to your healthcare provider for additional support and resources.
And seek out local or online groups to connect with other mothers who understand and are there to lift each other.
Postpartum Support International (PSI) offers a wealth of up-to-date resources and virtual support groups.
For immediate help, call the PSI HelpLine: 1 (800) 944-4773
You can also speak with a professional counselor 24/7 by calling the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1 (833) 943-5746
For the latest resources on maternal mental health, including postpartum depression and anxiety, follow Mission: Motherhood’s Facebook page.