Is this normal, or Postpartum Depression?

By Amy Higashiyama

Pregnancy often comes with a million questions from strangers. One question pregnant women are bombarded with is always “aren’t you SOOO excited?” You smile and nod, even if you might not feel so excited at the moment. When you have questions of your own, you are often countered with such sentatments as, “don’t worry. Having a child is the most amazing experience ever! You’ll love every minute of it!”

But what happens when you don’t love every minute of it?

The baby is finally here, and you don’t feel the love and connection you were expecting. You have a constant headache and you can hardly drag yourself out of bed. You’re confused all the time, and feel like you would lose your head if it wasn’t attached to your body. You can’t stop crying. Maybe you’ve noticed you’re just waiting for your significant other to get home to pick a fight because you’re angry and you don’t know why.

Having a baby sweeps you into a new world like Dorothy to Oz and you tell yourself you’re just tired from the baby waking up in the night. You’re just confused from the lack of sleep. You’re angry with your husband because he just won’t put his clothes in the hamper. Even through your rationalization, you can’t shake the feeling something is off.  

With hormone changes, it is completely normal for these symptoms to exist for a few weeks after the end of a pregnancy. According to the Recognizing Postpartum Depression, by NJ Speak Up, up to 80 percent of new moms have the "baby blues," characterized by crying easily or feeling stressed. This normally only last a few weeks. It is also completely common for these feelings to stick around longer, this can be postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression can come up to 4 years after childbirth*. The warning signs are different for everyone but can include:

  • Trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much

  • Changes in appetite

  • Feeling, irritable, angry, or nervous

  • Lack of interest in friends, family, or baby

  • Lack of interest in sex or any physical interaction with your partner

  • Feeling hopeless or guilty

  • Crying uncontrollably

  • Thoughts of hurting yourself, your partner, or your baby

When I had my first child, I had to tell my midwife I had postpartum depression before I was offered a screening sheet. I knew something was off about how I was feeling, and if I didn’t get help it could be a matter of life or death. I had to diagnose myself to get the help I needed. To most, this sounds ridiculous, but I needed to recognize what was going on with myself before I could tell anyone else. Postpartum depression does not have an overnight fix. It is an intense journey of healing and self-discovery the requires support from doctors, family, friends, and community. The Mother’s Nest is here to support you in this journey. We are here to be your tribe to help you when you are low and celebrate your successes.

While these symptoms listed above are the classic signs of postpartum depression, there are other maternal mental health issues you could be experiencing, such as postpartum anxiety, OCD, PTSD, psychosis, and postpartum onset bipolar.

If you feel you are experiencing any of the listed signs of postpartum depression, or even just feel there is something off, but you can’t tell what, please reach out to a physician. Be upfront about the feelings you are having. It does not make you any less of a mother or person to ask for help.

If you need help, please contact Postpartum Support International warmline at (800) 944-4PPD (944-4773), where you can talk to trained volunteers and moms. All calls are returned in 24 hours. If you need immediate help or are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please reach out to the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the text crisis line at 741741 or go directly to the closest ER. You will feel better. It is okay to not feel okay. We are here with you.