Q. I suffered SOME “baby blues” after I had my daughter that only lasted about 2 weeks. When she was 6 months old, I became pregnant with my newest baby. After I had her, I felt great! She is now 12 weeks old, and I find myself feeling easily angered and very weepy. I love both of my girls with all my heart and hate to have them see their mommy angry or sad. My husband has a quick temper and sometimes I feel he has rubbed off on me. I get angry at him when I see him losing his patience with the girls and feel like I am constantly protecting them from seeing their daddy losing his cool. I have always been a very patient and calm person but, lately I don’t feel patient or calm at all. I’m not sure if I am suffering from PPD or if I am just feeling the stress of a huge life change. I am trying to keep up with the housework (which is difficult with a new baby and a toddler), money is extremely tight, I am suffering from a lack of sleep and I’m not sure if what I am feeling is normal, or if with my past experience with depression and anxiety that is being triggered again with the hormonal changes my body is going through. Is it normal to feel huge mood swings this late after having a baby?
A. It is indeed quite common to experience mood swings 12 weeks postpartum. Is this “normal?” Well, that’s not so easy to answer. My best response to you is something I always say to my patients on the phone when they call for the first time. “If you think something is wrong . . . it probably is.” YOU are the best judge of whether something is the way it’s supposed to be or not. Chances are, you know very well how you’d like to feel or how you are most comfortable feeling and if you’re more irritable than usual, or more angry than usual, or more depressed than usual, YOU know that something needs to be addressed and this probably means a contact with your healthcare practitioner.
The label of PPD can be misleading. If you ask a hundred professionals what they think PPD is, you’ll surely get a hundred different responses. But here’s the bottom line. PPD is nothing more than the presence of a clinical depression after childbirth. How is it different from “regular” depression? (Depression not related to childbirth) It’s the same in most ways, the symptoms are the same. What makes PPD different is that in addition to all the symptoms of depression — there is a BABY involved and the transition to motherhood and parenthood that can be so consuming, and then there is sleep deprivation and hormonal changes and so forth. So . . . it doesn’t really matter what we call it. What matters is that we take it seriously and we find appropriate treatment for it.
If you don’t like the way you are feeling, it’s time to let your doctor know and get the name of a good therapist who specializes in the treatment of women and depression.
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