Postpartum depression affects a mother’s health in so many ways. It’s not simply a phase that a lot of new mothers go through. It’s a serious condition that needs prompt attention, support, and treatment. When uncared for, mothers with this condition can experience a plethora of health symptoms—physically, psychologically, and socially.
Here, we discuss the common signs and symptoms one in eight mothers go through due to postpartum depression. For those who are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek immediate professional care.
Fatigue and Lethargy
The first few months after giving birth can be some of the most exhausting periods in a new mom’s life. They often need to stay up all night to feed the baby and cope with the new setup at home. While fatigue can feel normal for these new mothers, it’s also a potential symptom of postpartum depression.
Lethargy often gets the best of many people, especially for mothers of newborns. They can feel tired, exhausted, and weary all the time. Nothing can seem to lift their energy. When this happens, spouses should offer help any way they can.
Unexplained Pain and Body Aches
The body can go through a lot throughout pregnancy and after giving birth as it returns to its non-pregnant state. This includes getting heartburn and constipation. However, this only often occurs within the postpartum period of three months after delivery. Causing pain long after delivery is another way that postpartum depression affects a mother’s health.
For new mothers who experience unexplained stomach pain or headaches, it’s best to get plenty of rest and consult their doctor on the best course of action to take.
Lack of Appetite
People with depression may find themselves uninterested in eating. This loss of appetite is also one of the reasons they experience other symptoms, such as weakness and fatigue. Since these new mothers lack the proper nutrition, they may get too tired or exhausted to care for their babies. Eventually, it can deteriorate their physical and mental health.
While babies still get the best nutrition from breast milk, it’s the mothers with postpartum depression that take the blow with this debilitating symptom.
Urinary incontinence, or difficulty in controlling the bladder, is a common health problem among women who have just given birth. This often occurs among those who’ve had a vaginal delivery. While this is normally a temporary problem as the pelvic floor muscles go through the process of recovering, this isn’t the case for some women.
Long-term postpartum urinary incontinence can contribute to other health-related concerns, such as fatigue, back pain, and depressive symptoms.
The last thing these mothers need is to feel more down in having to wear bulky adult diapers. There are incontinence undergarments for women that look and feel like regular underwear but have great absorbency. With these garments, they can feel both comfortable and confident wearing them.
It’s not news that mothers of newborns get sleep deprived for months. Babies need round-the-clock attention, from feeding them to putting them to sleep without making a fuss. With this, new mothers may not feel their best for the first few months postpartum.
But if sleep deprivation becomes a persistent condition even three months after delivery, this could be a symptom of postpartum depression.
It can be difficult to spot this condition, especially when many mothers consider lack of sleep as a normal part of motherhood. But if it already interferes with their way of life, then it may be high time to reach out for help.
Difficulty Focusing and Making Decisions
Early signs of depression among postpartum mothers include having trouble focusing and making decisions. This can start with being forgetful most of the time, not bothering to take a shower, or not knowing which chore to do at home.
Oftentimes, suddenly forgetting something or losing your train of thought isn’t just the “mom brain” acting up. It can be a serious sign of postpartum depression, and one that needs proper medical attention right away.
Difficulty Bonding with the Newborn
Women with postpartum depression may experience indifference toward their children. They may feel guilty about feeling disconnected from their baby when they shouldn’t.
Mothers going through this disconcerting situation should understand that this doesn’t mean they’re bad mothers. This is a common symptom of postpartum depression, a clinical diagnosis that needs ample treatment. Otherwise, it could negatively affect the way they deliver care for their child.
Withdrawing from Others
Postpartum depression affects a mother’s health by isolating them. People with depression tend to isolate themselves from family and friends. For mothers experiencing this condition postpartum, they may often feel like nobody understands their current situation. Their natural course of action would be to withdraw from others and keep their “depressing” thoughts to themselves.
When a loved one seems to isolate themselves, it doesn’t hurt to be the one to reach out to them. You may not see it, but a simple act of asking them how they’re doing can make a difference.
New mothers may feel unmotivated doing other things, especially when they’re so tired all the time. But if this feeling lingers for a couple of months after giving birth, there may be an underlying psychological cause.
Women with postpartum depression may lose interest in doing the things they liked doing before giving birth. This may include watching their favorite TV shows, working out, or hanging out with their partner. This sudden shift in mood and habits is something to watch out for.
When left untreated, postpartum depression may lead to postpartum psychosis. While it’s a rare condition that only occurs in 1 out of 1,000 deliveries, it’s a serious illness that requires immediate medical care.
Mothers with postpartum psychosis experience a break in reality. This means they start having delusions or hallucinations. They tend to get irritable or hyperactive and get rapid mood swings most of the time.
This may be caused by a family history of bipolar disorder. It’s also possible that these women have had a previous psychotic episode, even before their delivery.
Thoughts of hurting themselves or their baby aren’t new when it comes to postpartum depression. Spouses or family members need to spot such signs right away to keep the mother and the baby safe. Postpartum depression affects a mother’s health in such a severe way that often suicide feels like the only way out.
It’s a medical emergency, and it’s imperative to seek medical attention the moment they spot the signs.
Helping a Mother With Postpartum Depression
People can pass a ton of judgments on new mothers when that’s the last thing they need during such an overwhelming phase of their lives. The best thing for family and friends to do to help women with postpartum depression is to listen and lend a helping hand when they need it.
Of course, it’s always best to suggest seeking professional help so they can get proper treatment early on.
Kimberly Hatcher works with LL Medico and supports Women’s Health by providing information and resources, particularly for postpartum mothers who want to achieve their health and well-being goals.