It's not at all unusual for a new parent — particularly a new mom — to feel depressed after the birth of a baby. Crying jags, lack of sleep, never-ending diaper changes and bottomless laundry piles can make anyone feel a little down. But add to that post-pregnancy hormonal changes and breastfeeding issues, and it's a wonder any parent makes it through those first few weeks.
Rough estimates show that about 80 percent of new moms feel a little depressed after giving birth. The condition even has a nickname — the “baby blues” — and includes symptoms such as exhaustion, sadness, guilt and a feeling of helplessness. Again, this is normal. But what's not normal is when these symptoms become severe or debilitating, or when they last for longer than just a few days.
If you experience long-lasting or intense depression after the birth of your baby, you may have developed a condition known as postpartum depression. It's not a weakness. You're not crazy. It is a complication associated with childbirth and you can get help. Health experts say its even more common in winter months when the shorter days affect the chemical pathways in the brain that control depression.
Here's how to get the help you need to overcome postpartum depression:
Call your doctor. He or she can refer you to a therapist and/or recommend medication that you can take for the short term to treat your condition.
Ask your family and friends for help. It's hard to ask for help. You want everyone to know that you can do this, that you're a good mom. But a good mom knows when she needs to call in reinforcements so that she can take care of herself and be the best mom for her baby.
Talk to friends. Talk to your friends about what you're going through or join a support group to meet with other women who are going through the same things. You'll be surprised to learn just how many of your friends and neighbors had similar feelings of depression after giving birth.
Take care of yourself. Caring for a new baby is incredibly taxing to your mind, body, and spirit. Grab whatever time you can — five minutes here or there or even a whole evening — to do something just for you. Read a book, call a friend, take a bath, or hit the town with friends. Take time to recharge so that you can be there for your baby when she needs you.