With Mental Health Awareness Month passing in May, we wanted to take the opportunity to continue the conversation. Just because Mental Health Awareness Month is over, doesn’t mean we should stop talking about it.
We’d like to shed some light on postpartum depression (PPD) and its early signs, a condition that Mobo.co Founder Alison Ruks herself silently suffered. Her struggle was a strong catalyst in pursuing her dream of creating a product-based business that would positively impact parental health. Today, the company owns multiple brands including Mobobaby and True North Slings, both helping make new parent life easier with the 2-1 Nursing Cover + Hat, and True North’s legendary Canadian-made linen ring slings.
To help achieve the company’s vision, Mobo Co. is proud to donate 1% of all sales to organizations that advocate for mental health and we will never stop working to continue the conversation about the severe state of maternal health in our country (PPD rates have skyrocketed during the pandemic) and the need for advocacy for better government-supported postpartum care for all demographics of women and those identifying as women.
We've compiled the following information in the hopes that it will help parents experiencing PPD recognize their symptoms and find support.
Postpartum Depression Versus Baby Blues
Baby blues begin within the first three or four days of giving birth and are normally accompanied by crying, tiredness, and restlessness. Baby blues require no treatment and usually subside within a few hours or days.
Postpartum depression lasts much longer and often starts within the first month after childbirth but can develop anytime within the first year after delivery. PPD can last weeks to months, with symptoms worsening or intensifying to the point where it can affect the quality of life. It can develop into chronic episodes of depression or - in severe cases - postpartum psychosis.
Clinically, postpartum depression is no different from general depression and is diagnosed using the same criteria by a physician or mental health professional.
Common Signs of Postpartum Depression
- Prolonged periods of crying for no obvious reason
- Frequent and drastic mood swings, especially from calm to irritable
- Being easily angered or irritated
- Intense anxiety, worry, and fear that hampers the performance of daily tasks
- Feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, despair, or hopelessness
- Unable to focus or concentrate
- Easily forgetting things
- Easily distractable
- Being indecisive about things
- Feeling like you are to blame for how you are feeling and acting
- Muscle aches and pains
- Upset stomach
- Chronic fatigue
- Loss of energy
- Increase or decreased appetite
- Withdrawing from your partner, friends, and family
- Avoiding being alone with your baby
- Having no interest in caring for or bonding with your baby
- Lacking interest in your usual activities like exercise or hobbies
- Displaying outbursts of anger or rage directed at others
- Avoiding tasks and responsibilities
Extreme Signs of Postpartum Depression
Extreme postpartum depression can take many forms, including postpartum panic disorder, postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or postpartum post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms can include:
- Obsessive and repetitive behaviours such as cleaning and changing the baby's clothes
- Suffering from "panic attacks" with physical symptoms like racing heartbeat, shortness of breath and tightening chest
- Intrusive thoughts of harming your baby
- A fear that you are losing control over your thoughts or are going crazy
Postpartum psychosis is another phenomenon experienced by mothers, marked by hallucinations, delusions, or confusion, extreme paranoia and suspicions, expressing thoughts of self-harm or harm towards your baby, or having suicidal thoughts or actions.
Postpartum Anxiety & OCD
Studies have shown that many women with PPD also concurrently experience postpartum anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), with many symptoms overlapping. It may show up in the first year postpartum or later.
Symptoms can include:
- racing thoughts
- a constant need to be busy
- overwhelming worry
- disturbing and scary thoughts
- fear of being alone with the baby because of those thoughts and/or things that could harm the baby (i.e. kitchen knives, stairs)
- an ongoing need to check things constantly (i.e. the door, baby breathing)
- a lack of focus and difficulty concentrating
Other symptoms can include stomach cramps, headaches, shakiness, nausea, loss of appetite, muscle tension (grinding teeth, neck and shoulder pain, muscle twitching) and insomnia.
For Mobo Co.’s founder, Alison, her postpartum anxiety was still in full effect even after her daughter hit the age of three. She was constantly worried about the safety of her family, often consumed with worries that she would suffer the loss of her daughter or husband.
For her, symptoms inculded extreme anxiety where she often stopped going out because of her fears. Major relationship issues with family and friends soon followed but no one put two and two together. “If I didn’t see it, how was everyone else supposed to see it?”, said Alison. “Everyone around me kept telling me to calm down and to stop worrying so much.”
Her partner, who thought she was just being overprotective and overbearing, started to resent her behavior. In fact, it’s only in the last year or so, after being on the brink of her relationship collapse, that she and her partner have been able to openly discuss what she went through. As Alison shared, “talking about it was the only thing that made him put two and two together and actually see the whole picture of what I was going through.”
If you think you have postpartum depression or anxiety and OCD, it's important to seek help. Many options exist including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT), pharmaceutical medications as well as natural supplements. For Alison, it was a combination approach that included several modalities, with a heavy focus on CBT and natural medicine. When examining your options, It is always important to discuss them thoroughly with a trusted medical provider such as your family doctor, naturopathic physician, pediatrician, or OBGYN.
Remember: You are not a bad mother for feeling how you feel. (And no, you aren't crazy). You are not alone. Before the pandemic, approximately 1 in 7 women suffered with postpartum mental health issues. Since, that has now increased to 1 in 3. (Source).
If you're looking for support in the US, Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance can help you locate resources in your state (mmhla.org). For international moms, check with Postpartum Support International; they have resources to help (postpartum.net). There are also many online and in-person support groups for women with PPD. You can also reach out to your local crisis line or speak with a counsellor specializing in perinatal depression.
Help is out there, but you have to say something.
Image credit: 30seconds.com