Becoming a mother, whether for the first or fourth time, is a huge life change. Many women experience sadness or anxiety in the first days or weeks after having a baby, often called “the baby blues.” This is typically a result of rapidly fluctuating hormone levels, in addition to fatigue, and tends to come and go in the immediate postpartum phase. Every new mother has a bad day here and there, and as long as it passes, it’s generally no cause for concern. Up to 80% of mothers will have some changes in mental health after giving birth.
However, in some cases, mood issues continue or worsen. A woman who has been struggling with ongoing depression or anxiety for over 2 weeks may be suffering from postpartum depression. Postpartum depression typically begins within a few weeks after birth, but it can also develop later, any time in the first 12 months postpartum.
Symptoms of postpartum depression vary widely, but may include some or all of the following:
A constant sense of overwhelm or hopelessness
Sadness and frequent crying
Irritability or anger (toward oneself, the baby, or other family members)
Feeling incapable of caring for a baby
Lack of bonding with or affectionate feelings toward baby
Loss of appetite
Feeling numb or disconnected
Mental fogginess or inability to concentrate
Wanting to run away or, in severe cases, thoughts of self-harm
In some women, anxiety is the more predominant emotion, which can include symptoms such as:
Racing and/or repetitive thoughts
Inability to rest or take a break
Insomnia (“tired but wired”)
Shortness of breath
Shakiness or panic attacks
A sense of dread
Scary or intrusive thoughts
Although these feelings are unsettling, it’s important to know that postpartum mood disorders are common, temporary, and treatable. At TCRA, our women’s health specialists can help by gently regulating hormonal balance using acupuncture and herbs, as well as nourishing the body in order to help settle the nervous system. We may also make referrals to postpartum therapists or support groups, if needed.
If you or someone you know is currently suffering from postpartum depression and needs support, please contact us at TCRA. For other resources in your community and connection to immediate help, you can also visit Postpartum Progress (postpartumprogress.com), the Pregnancy and Postpartum Health Alliance of Texas (pphatx.org), or call the National Perinatal Hotline (1-800-PPD-MOMS).