Dorothy Stevenson knew something was wrong.
In the weeks after her daughter was born in 2015, Stevenson did not feel like herself. She would find herself nursing her daughter, thinking of suicide. She would cry at the drop of a hat, she was on edge.
“I remember standing in my kitchen with my husband, admitting out loud to my husband that, ‘I am not OK,’” she said. “I remember standing there and telling him I was going to ask for antidepressants because something isn’t right.”
While it’s common for new moms to experience “baby blues” after childbirth, which can include mood swings, anxiety and difficulty sleeping, some moms experience a more longterm condition called postpartum depression.
Stevenson, who was working at CrossWinds at the time, believed she had experienced PPD with her first child two years earlier. Her symptoms went away after the first 3 - 6 months after he was born. With her daughter, however, it got progressively worse and it was a traumatic experience.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include depressed mood or severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from family and friends, a loss of appetite or eating much more than usual, insomnia or sleeping too much, overwhelming fatigue, a loss of interest or joy in things you used to enjoy, fear that you aren’t a good mother, hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy, diminished ability to think clearly, restlessness, severe anxiety, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby and recurrent thoughts of death and suicide.
It’s estimated that 70% - 80% of women will experience the “baby blues” with another 10 - 20% of new moms experiencing clinical postpartum depression.
According to www.postpartumdepression.org, a “recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience PPD in the year after giving birth. With approximately 4 million live births occurring each year in the United States, this equates to almost 600,000 postpartum depression diagnoses.”
The number is upwards of 900,000 when including women who have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth.
Stevenson said she was shocked to learn how common PPD was when she talked to her doctor. At the time, she felt isolated. Her doctor told her she would start to feel better “in a couple of months” once her medication started working.
“You think, are there other women out there who were worse off who couldn’t wait for those two months while the antidepressants kick in?” she said. “I think it’s good that doctors normalize it, but it’s scary to think that how I felt is how a lot of people feel after they have a baby.”
Stevenson said she believes PPD should be something that doctors talk about more, so new moms feel even less isolated in their feelings.
And, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
CrossWinds Development Manager Lucas Moody said there are different therapies that can be helpful in dealing with things like postpartum depression. One is Accelerated Resolution Therapy — or ART — that has been successful for many clients suffering with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.
“Through a few sessions, individuals have been able to put their heart at ease and again experience peace of mind,” Moody said. “Accelerated Resolution Therapy allows individuals to address their issue, without directly talking about it. Eye movements, similar to what our eyes do during REM sleep, engage that part of the brain where memories are stored. Metaphorically, emotions and sensations can portray the trauma, and allow individuals to work through it with ease. Negative images and emotions are erased and replaced with positive images, leaving further peace of mind and calmness. Memories are still present, but the negative emotions tied to them, disappear and create new neurotransmitters in the brain, helping us to find relief from our symptoms quicker.”
Other therapies that can be successful treatment options are Cognitive Based Therapy which helps people change their thought processes and work through their past trauma. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing utilizes eight phases, combining psychotherapy and eye movements to assist individuals in relieving the intensity of emotions.
Medication may assist in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and difficulties sleeping and it was successful for Stevenson.
Self-care is also equally important and taking care of your mind and body. It is important to exercise, yoga, meditation, eat well balanced meals, get a good night’s rest, avoid drugs and alcohol, find time for yourself, and time for family and friends to connect with others, to improve mood.
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, call at 620-343-2211 to request an appointment, or call your doctor.