Giving new life and having a baby should be a wonderful thing – they always are in the movies. But reality sometimes hits you with a different kind of stick. Statistics show that about 10% (some research suggests even numbers as high as 25%) of women experience postpartum depression (or postnatal depression, as it’s also called) after giving birth.
There are many reasons why postpartum depression can occur. Sometimes things are simply not the way you imagined them to be. You know how a loving mother should feel – but maybe your feelings towards your baby are different and conflicting. Yet you want to be like that idealized loving mother. The difference between how it should be and how it is can make you feel depressed. Maybe you doubt whether you can really be a good mother or not. These are things that ever mother goes through, however, with postpartum depression it is a lot more intense and painful.
It’s kind of a vicious cycle – because you think that you are not a good mother, or that the relationship with your baby is not as it should be, you feel bad – and that depletes you of the energy to give your baby the love and affection it needs. You might try to force yourself, but one can only “fake it” so long. So in the end, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the dynamics of a vicious circle get in motion.
It’s important to interrupt this pattern. The first months in a baby’s life are crucially important. So what can you do?
Medication is not an answer. Sure, you can temporarily “switch of” your depression and pop some happy chemicals, but long-term effects of psychopharmaca tend to be the exact opposite of that they were supposed to do. It’s very possible that a woman who takes anti-depressants feels great for 3 months, 6 months or even a year, but when they stop to take their medication they fall back in even deeper depression than what they experienced before. In my opinion, a postpartum depression treatment should not lead to chronic depression.
Also, many women aren’t sure whether what they experience is actually something that should be communicated and treated. Many feel uneasy about sharing what’s going on with their partners or a trusted friend. But it is important that you communicate how you feel. It is important that you acknowledge your feelings and emotions and allow yourself to express them – if you try to put a lid on it all, you’ll obstruct the flow of emotions, and thus also the flow of emotions that you wish to feel more of.
If you feel guilty about the way you feel, if your thinking isn’t as clear as it used to be, if you are tearful and emotionally upset – that can be normal for a couple of days because of the hormonal changes going on in your body. But if it persists for weeks, or even months, it’s time you do something about your own state of well-being. Because a happy child needs a happy mother.