A guest blog written by Jennifer Kenney of Your Family Doula LLC.
I experienced Postpartum Depression (PPD) after the birth of my twins. I was completely unprepared. I didn’t know how to handle it, and so, for about a month I chose not to. I should have seen a medical professional, but I was too ashamed. After a month, I started looking into anonymous online support and talking to friends. Soon after, I started getting better.
From both my personal experience and through my postpartum doula training, here are 5 things I know about postpartum depression:
1. It is more than “baby blues.”
Often times when I tell people I had postpartum depression, they will say, “Oh ya, I did too. It lasted for about a week.” These instances could have been PPD, but most of them were probably the “baby blues.” Don’t get me wrong. The baby blues are tough too. Mood swings, crying, sadness, and trouble sleeping are all symptoms of baby blues.
Postpartum Depression is more. It’s insomnia. (There were nights I never fell asleep at all.) It’s feelings of shame. It’s withdrawing from loved ones. It’s intense irritability. For some, it’s thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.
Postpartum Psychosis is even more dangerous. Its symptoms includes confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, and thoughts or attempts to harm themselves or their baby. If you ever suspect someone is experiencing postpartum psychosis, immediate medical attention needs to be sought.
2. There are symptoms friends and family should know.
Every spouse should know what the symptoms are. Here are a few:
|Baby Blues||Postpartum Depression||Postpartum Psychosis|
|feelings of sadness||insomnia||confusion|
|crying||irritability or anger||disorientation|
|trouble sleeping||trouble bonding with baby||delusions|
|mood swings||thoughts of harming self/baby||hallucinations|
|trouble concentrating||feelings of shame, guilt, and/or inadequacy||paranoia|
|withdrawing from loved ones||thoughts or attempts of harming self/baby|
|loss of appetite|
3. PPD doesn’t always happen in the first 6 weeks
My own experience with postpartum depression began around 9 or 10 months after my twins were born. When I started sharing my own experience, people were surprised. Many thought postpartum depression only occurred in the first 6 weeks. Sometimes PPD develops 6-12 months postpartum or even later.
4. There are risk factors.
There are risk factors for postpartum mood disorders. Some of these risk factors include:
- Family history of bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, or PPD
- Thyroid disease
- History of abuse, insomnia, or eating disorders
- History of PMS
- Recent life stresses
- Relationship struggles (with spouse or parents)
- Multiple births
- Negative birth experience
- Earlier pregnancy loss
- Being a perfectionist
- Living far from support network
- Having a high needs baby
- Having a baby with disabilities
5. It's best to talk about it.
If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty, TALK ABOUT IT! Get professional help. My husband didn’t know what to do with me. I asked him not to tell anyone. I did not start feeling better until I started seeking help and started talking to those I felt safe talking to.
Postpartum depression is nothing to take lightly. It is one of many postpartum mood disorders. ProDoula trains their postpartum doulas to know the symptoms and risk factors. Your doula can help by referring you to specialists and being a safe person to confide in. She can help you get more sleep which can also help in some cases. Take care of yourself. Let others take care of you. You don’t have to be alone if you experience PPD.
Jennifer Kenney is owner and doula at Your Family Doula LLC. As a survivor of PPD, she knows the importance of postpartum support firsthand. While working as a postpartum doula in Nashville, she strives to support the whole family unit during this stressful time. She is also a certified lactation educator and a newborn photography. All of this and she is raising three children of her own, including twins.