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What does it feel like to have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety? What are the signs or symptoms? How do you know when you have it? And if you do have it, what should you do?

I want to explain it in the words I hear women use to describe their experience so it will easily make sense for you. When you read the two different symptoms lists below, one for postpartum depression and one for postpartum anxiety and OCD, please remember a few things:

  1. You may not have all the symptoms listed or even most of them. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not “one-size-fits-all” illnesses.
  2. Many new moms have a hard time, every now and then, for a day or two. We all have bad days. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not just bad days. Women with PPD or anxiety have symptoms like the ones listed below much of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer, and these symptoms make it feel very hard to live and enjoy your life each day.
  3. Postpartum Depression and anxiety are sometimes “comorbid.” This means you can have a bit of both, or all of both. If you have symptoms on both lists, that is not unusual.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

You may have postpartum depression if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • You feel overwhelmed. Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I can’t do this and I am never to going to be able to do this.” You feel like you just can’t handle being a mother. In fact, you may be wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.
  • You feel guilty because you believe you should be handling new motherhood better than this. You feel like your baby deserves better. You worry whether your baby can tell you feel so bad, or that you are crying so much, or that you don’t feel the happiness and connection that you thought you would. You may wonder whether your baby would be better without you.
  • You don’t feel bonded to your baby. You are not having that mythical mommy bliss that you see on TV or read about on social media. Not everyone with PPD feels this way, but many do.
  • You can’t understand what is happening to you and why. You are very confused and scared.
  • You feel irritated or angry. You have no patience. Everything annoys you. You feel resentment towards your baby, or your partner or others. You feel out-of-control rage.
  • You feel nothing, just emptiness and numbness. You are just through the motions.
  • You feel sadness to the depths of your soul. You can’t stop crying, even when there is no real reason to be crying.
  • You feel hopeless, like your situation will never get better. You feel weak and defective, like a failure.
  • You can’t bring yourself to eat, or perhaps the only thing that makes you feel better is eating.
  • You can’t seem to sleep when the baby sleeps, nor can you sleep at any other time. Or maybe you can fall asleep, but you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t go back to sleep no matter how tired you are. Or maybe all you can do is sleep and you can’t seem to get out of bed to get the most basic things done. Whichever it is, your sleeping is completed messed up and it is not just because you have a newborn.
  • You can’t concentrate. You can’t focus. You can’t think of the words you want to say. You can’t remember what you were supposed to do. You can’t make decisions. You feel like you are in a fog.
  • You feel disconnected. You feel strangely apart from everyone for some reason, like there is an invisible wall between you and the rest of the world.
  • Maybe you are doing everything right! You are exercising. You are taking your vitamins. You have a healthy spirituality. You do yoga. You are thinking, “Why can’t I just get over this?” You feel like you should be able to snap out of it, but you can’t.
  • You might be having thoughts of running away and leaving your family behind. Or you have thought of driving off the road, or taking too many pills, or finding some other way to end this misery.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you have “gone crazy.”
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you have lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that if you reach out for help, others with judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

Postpartum Anxiety & OCD

You may have postpartum anxiety or postpartum OCD if you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms:

  • Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quite your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.
  • You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Cleaning bottles. Cleaning baby clothes. Cleaning the house. Doing work. Entertaining the baby. Checking on the baby. Organizing things.
  • You are worried. Really worried. All. The. Time! Am I doing this right? Will my partner come home from his trip? Will the baby wake up? Is the baby eating enough? Is there something wrong with my baby that I am missing? No matter what anyone says to reassure you, it doesn’t help.
  • You may be having disturbing thoughts. Thoughts that you have never had before. Scary thoughts that make you wonder whether you aren’t the person you thought you were. They fly into your head unwanted and you know they aren’t right, that this isn’t the real you, but they terrify you and they won’t go away. These thoughts may start with works “What if…..”
  • You are afraid to be alone with your baby because of scary thoughts and worries. You are also afraid of things in your house that could potentially cause harm like knives or stairs, and you avoid them.
  • You may feel the need to check things constantly. Did I lock the door? Did I lock the car? Did I turn off the stove? Is the baby breathing?
  • You may be having physical symptoms like stomach cramps or headaches, shakiness or nausea. You might even have panic attacks.
  • You feel like a captive animal, pacing back and forth in a cage. Restless. On edge.
  • You can’t eat. You have no appetite.
  • You are having trouble sleeping. You are so, so tired, but you can’t sleep.
  • You know something is wrong. You may not know you have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, but you know the way you are feeling is NOT right. You think you’ve “gone crazy.”
  • You are afraid that this is your new reality and that you have lost the “old you” forever.
  • You are afraid that is you reach out for help people will judge you. Or that your baby will be taken away.

Postpartum Depression Help

Now that you have gone through these symptoms are you thinking, “How the heck do these people know me?” What this should tell you is that you are not alone and you are not defective and you are not a lost cause. If you are having these feelings and symptoms then you may have a common illness that 15 – 20% of all new mothers have, and these illnesses are completely treatable. The team at The Relationship Centre can help you!

THE FACTS

  • 1 in every 7 women will get a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression or anxiety. These illnesses are not normal, but they are very common.
  • If you ar having the symptoms listed in this handout, call your doctor or a therapist. Don’t try to wait this out. These illnesses require preofessional treatment, and there are different types of treatments that work. You WILL get well with help.
  • If you are already past 12 months postpartum and still suffering, you could still have PPD or anxiety. Women who haven’t received treatment or who were not effectively helped can have symptoms that continue past the first year. You can still get help.

by: Mary Joan Brinson MSW, RSW

If you are pregnant and are having symptoms like those listed above, you may be struggling with depression or anxiety during pregnancy, which is just as common. Let your OB or Midwife know about your symptoms so he or she can help.
If you have questions, Call Us Today at 613-848-3683 and we can set up a free consultation for you to talk with a therapist to understand what you are going through and what you can do to start feeling better.