It’s estimated that worldwide, some 10 to 15 per cent of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression. According to studies, having a strong social network – both online and in real life – can help mothers cope with this common medical concern.
A DARKER SHADE OF BABY BLUES
Postpartum depression is not to be confused with what’s come to be known as the postpartum “baby blues”, which is common to 80 percent of women after giving birth, usually beginning within the first three days after delivery and sometimes lasting as long as two weeks.
The baby blues are typically characterized by mood swings, anxiety, crying spells, irritability and insomnia, and while undeniably unpleasant, the condition is temporary, very common, and doesn’t present any long-term health concerns.
Postpartum depression, however, is a different story, being a more severe, long-lasting affliction linked to the chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby. While similar to the baby blues, its symptoms are considerably more intense and can eventually interfere with a mother’s ability to take proper care of her newborn or simply perform basic daily tasks.
(click link to read this really important piece on thecut.com)
I’m lying awake, gazing at the gentle rise and fall of my 3-month-old’s chest. He’s a delicate infant, constantly surprising me with his smallness, like his sister did when she was born four years earlier. In recent weeks, my son has begun stretching out the number of minutes between nursing sessions. He can go for two hours without eating now, or two and a half if I’m lucky. This means I have more of a chance to sleep, at least in short spurts. But every time I drift off, I jolt awake in a sweaty panic.
I am on high alert all the time these days. I tell myself that this panicky feeling is normal — I have a new(ish) baby, after all. But it doesn’t feel normal. I have constant visions of my son suffocating in the night. I think of waking up to his cold body. I spend nights imagining a thousand unlikely, tragic things that could happen to him.
The baby blues aren’t just the domain of birth mothers: fathers, adoptive parents, and nonbiological mothers are also at risk.
Postpartum depression is a condition diagnosed in mothers—birth mothers, specifically—coming home from the hospital after giving birth and feeling that something is off. That the joy they thought they should be feeling is nowhere to be found.
While hormonal changes associated with birth can play a role, according to the Mayo Clinic, hormones are just one ingredient in a stew of risk factors that also includes sleep deprivation, lifestyle, and environment. All of these other factors can affect any new parent. And they do.