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Postpartum Depression

Is This Postpartum Depression?
By Karen Kleiman, MSW
Karen KleimanQ. I had a baby a month ago. I also have a 5 year old daughter. I have been having some feelings that seem to be getting worse. I am tired all the time (baby sleeps all night from 9pm-7am---I know, how lucky) and sleep a lot during the day while my little girl is at school when the baby sleeps. But I seem to cry at everything and the crying keeps getting worse. I don't have the energy to run and play with my little girl or exercise for me. I also have lost interest in things I used to love to do, for example scrapbooking and walking with my daughter. I just can't even make myself do some of these things I loved to do. I am just like a bump on the couch just sitting there all the time. My husband knows something is wrong, but he would never accept this (he is the type of person who just doesn't understand about these kind of things). I have not talked to anyone about this--I'm almost ashamed. I feel so alone all the time.

A. I'm sorry you're feeling so bad. It's important that you take care of this, especially since you say you're feeling worse as time goes on. Let me show you how many of the things you report are actually symptoms of postpartum depression:

"I have been having some feelings that seem to be getting worse." -- Symptoms that are getting worse instead of better as time passes, need to be addressed, probably by a healthcare professional. It's often a sign that there is a biologic component to the symptoms that may be factoring into this.

"I am tired all the time" -- Chronic fatigue is quite common with PPD whether your baby is sleeping, whether you are getting enough sleep or not.

"sleep a lot during the day" -- Sleep impairment is a big symptom. It can present as insomnia or an increase in sleeping.

"I seem to cry at everything and the crying keeps getting worse." -- Constant weepiness is another big symptom. It's often that feeling that you just can't help it, that you're crying all the time and sometimes you know why, though sometimes you don't, you're just crying.

"I don't have the energy to run and play with my little girl or exercise for me." -- The fatigue and depression are truly exhausting.

"I also have lost interest in things I used to love to do" -- Lack of motivation and apathy toward previously pleasurable activities is common with PPD. This will get better when you get treatment and start feeling better.

"I just can't even make myself do some of these things I loved to do." -- That's okay, for now. This comes with the territory. The only thing you need to "force" yourself to do, whether you feel like it or not, is take care of your baby, and take care of yourself by talking to your doctor or another healthcare practitioner so they can help you get on track and start to feel better.

"I am just like a bump on the couch just sitting there all the time." -- I know. It's hard to get up when you feel so bad. Set small goals for yourself. Tell yourself it's okay to feel this way for now, but soon, you will do what you need to do to get better and when you start feeling better, you will be able to take care of some of the things you feel so overwhelmed with now.

"My husband knows something is wrong, but he would never accept this (he is the type of person who just doesn't understand about these kind of things)." -- Well, this won't help, but hopefully, with the right information and support, he'll come around. Get him information so he understands what's happening here. Show him my book, there's a chapter for husbands that will help him (ch 10). Tell him you can't help this. Tell him you have a real illness and you're going to get help and feel better soon. Tell him you need his help and then tell him specifically what he can do to help.

"I have not talked to anyone about this--I'm almost ashamed." -- This will be your greatest enemy during this difficult time. It's VERY important that you understand that your feelings of shame and embarrassment will not only get in the way of your recovery, but they will make you feel worse! Talk to your doctor. You are entitled to feel better. This is a real illness. It is not a weakness. It is treatable and you will feel better again. Really.

"I feel so alone all the time." -- I know you do. Isolation is a very real part of this. That's why you must talk about it and take steps toward recovery. Okay?

Reaching out for help is very difficult when you are struggling with depression. Still, you need to resist the urge to sit back and feel terrible. Call your doctor, talk to your husband, reach out to loved ones who will understand . . . and let us know how you are.

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