Many women fear childbirth. After all, giving birth is supposed to be one of the most painful things you can experience. A mom may be encouraged to make a birth plan and have a peaceful birth experience, but there is still the sense that childbirth itself is an intimidating rite of passage.But afterward? Now is the part you’ve been waiting for – having your baby in your arms, finally being able to see her face and hold her. It’s baby bliss.
But what happens when each sleepless night turns into a day of worry, numbness, and exhaustion? When you stare at your baby’s perfect face and feel nothing? When you sense a deep sadness that lingers for months that you wake up with every morning and go to bed with every night?
It can be hard to talk about this experience as a new mother. Having a baby sometimes seems like it’s supposed to be a magical time of life. Yes, everyone will commiserate with you about the sleep deprivation and how your life has changed forever, but at the end of the day, you feel like you’re supposed to be happy.
You have this lovely little creature who’s completely dependent on you, and the pressure is on to be a good mom and to enjoy every moment.
Postpartum depression is not a failure on your part. It’s a legitimate condition that has become more widely known and understood over the past several decades. For about half of moms with PPD, it’s their first depressive episode ever, making it even scarier and more unfamiliar when those feelings hit.
Let’s talk more about the reality of postpartum depression and what you can do if you’re experiencing it now.
Depression: The Reality
Statistically, about 1 in 7 women who give birth end up having postpartum depression. In other words, a significant percentage of mothers. Of these women, half of them have experienced at least one depressive episode before in their lives.
Also, for about half of mothers with PPD, the condition began during pregnancy and continued after they gave birth.
Postpartum depression is the most common complication associated with childbirth. Many women (up to 80%) experience a milder form of sadness after birth, called the baby blues, as hormones shift following pregnancy. The baby blues should resolve on their own within a few weeks’ time. PPD also sometimes resolves on its own, but it also may linger for months unresolved, especially without treatment.
Some countries have much higher rates of postpartum depression than others, allowing us to see some of the factors that may be correlated with this mood disorder. For example, only 3% of women in Singapore have PPD, but 38% of women in Chile do, which is a much larger percentage than the global average (17%).
Researchers have determined that the global rates of PPD correlate to the following factors:
- Rates of women of childbearing age who work over forty hours every week.
- Income inequality between men and women.
- Rates of maternal and infant mortality in one’s country.
In other words, women with economic advantages and good healthcare have lower rates of postpartum depression.
Other disorders associated with postpartum depression include PPTSD (postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder), PPOCD (postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder), PPA (postpartum anxiety), and postpartum psychosis, which is a rare but dangerous condition that causes symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and feeling out of touch with reality.
How Do I Know if I Have Postpartum Depression?
So, how do you know if what you are experiencing is normal, or maybe you just have the baby blues and it will pass in time?
Here are the American Psychological Association’s most common signs of the baby blues:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
And here are the APA’s most common signs of postpartum depression:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
As you can see, there is an overlap between the two conditions, but the major difference is that postpartum depression is more intense and long-lasting than the baby blues. With all the hormonal changes that happen postpartum, some mood swings are to be expected, but they should settle down into normalcy before too much time has passed.
There is no one factor that causes postpartum depression, and the risk factors may differ in each individual, but the APA lists several possible risk factors for developing the condition, including a history of depression, having a baby with health problems or special needs, financial problems, stressful life events in the past year, a lack of a good support system, relationship difficulties, an unplanned pregnancy, or difficulty breastfeeding.
If you know one or more of these factors are influencing you, then be sure to talk to your doctor if you start experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression above.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
Sometimes, PPD can resolve on its own. If so, it usually does so within three months. But if you are experiencing PPD, don’t wait to see if it will go away; start now to get support and make sure that you have what you need to be a healthy parent. Talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), medication, and self-care are all effective treatment options.
If you are suffering from PPD, don’t hesitate to contact a Christian counselor to talk through what you are experiencing. Your Christian counselor can guide you through your options, work with your medical doctor to determine if medication is a good idea, and provide consistent, compassionate support as you adjust to this new addition to your family as well as the disruption to your life that a mood disorder brings.
Bible Verses for Postpartum Depression
Since postpartum depression can be an isolating condition, it’s important to remember that there is hope, that you’re not alone, and that your faith can bring you comfort.
The Bible doesn’t speak specifically about the postpartum period, but it is interesting to note that in the Old Testament, regulations for postpartum mothers included a long period of “uncleanness,” which also meant that she was resting with her baby.
Throughout history, women often had a period of rest postpartum, and their female relatives and friends would help fill in the gaps to care for them and their responsibilities. But in our modern-day world, women often have very short maternity leaves and a societal expectation that they should immediately “bounce back” and get back to normal.
If you are experiencing PPD, you might feel an overwhelming sense of pressure that you should be “back to normal.” Here are some verses that may be comforting during this time:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. – Psalm 30:5
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19
Don’t suffer in silence. Call 911 immediately if you experience thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or your baby. If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Postpartum depression affects many women. You are not alone, and there is hope for recovery.
“Mother and Child”, Courteys of Fancycrave1, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Baby Feet”, Courtesy of One_life, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Newborn”, Courtesy of Smpratt90, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Mother’s Touch”, Courtesy of Bingngu93, Pixabay.com, CC0 License