Monica*, a mom of four, has a brand new baby who is beautiful and healthy, after having a delivery that went off without a hitch. So now that Monica is home and trying to establish some semblance of a routine, why does she feel like something is not quite right?
“After the baby was born, I felt a physical heaviness, a blanket of sadness mixed with anxiety that I couldn’t get off me,” she explains. “I couldn’t shake this feeling that my spirit was clouded down. What made it worse was that it was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, so I felt bad admitting something was wrong.”
Though undiagnosed, Monica, like many new moms, was most likely suffering from a mild case of postpartum depression, or PPD.
According to the American Psychological Association, one in seven women (around 14 percent) may experience some type of depression during and after pregnancy. Most new moms experience mild “baby blues” after delivery, which may include feeling tired, sad, exhausted and just generally overwhelmed. These depressive symptoms tend to subside in a few weeks.
PPD symptoms, which are more extreme, may occur within the first several days of delivery or even weeks after a child is born, persist for several weeks or months and require some form of treatment. In extremely rare cases (1 in 1,000), women may experience a disorder called post-partum psychosis, in which they are unable to care for themselves or their child, and they may harbor thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.
For women suffering from post-partum depression, the symptoms aren’t always so obvious. “Some women experiencing PPD may feel down, depressed, isolated and lonely, while others may feel agitated, have no appetite, be overwhelmed with worry and unable to relax,” explains Helen Coons, a clinical health psychologist who specializes in women’s health and the clinical director at Women's Mental Health Associates in Philadelphia.
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