What is PPMD?

PPMD“So what brought you into the emergency room tonight?” I was seated across from the patient’s bed, desperate to remain composed and professional. It was the beginning of my shift, so professionalism should not have been a problem: I was rested, refreshed, and should have been focused. However, this particular patient had a three-week-old baby in the room, and it was taking all of my energy to pay attention to the adult and not the adorable bundle she brought with her.

My priorities realigned, however, when I noticed the strained smile on her face. There was a pause before she answered, as she struggled to compose her response, and suddenly tears spilled from her eyes as quickly as the string of words expressing desperation, sorrow, and guilt over how she was feeling about her new role as Mom.

Postpartum mood disorders affect up to 25 percent of new mothers, and symptoms can develop immediately after birth or months after your little one has come into the world. Depression manifests differently in different people, but typical symptoms include chronic crying, increased anxiety, feelings of despair or guilt, weight loss/gain, sleep disturbance, feeling distant from your child, and fixation on your child’s safety out of paranoia that something dangerous could happen, or thoughts of hurting your child yourself. Dealing with depression by itself is an exhausting task, and doing it while caring for a child can border on the impossible. Doing it without help can create dangerous situations, for both you and your child, and it’s important to ask for support when you recognize that things feel harder than they should.

So what can you do if you feel you or a loved one is having a hard time adjusting to parenthood?

  • Know the signs. Postpartum mental health concerns can arise at any point of the journey, including during pregnancy. Taking the time to check in with your own mental health on a regular basis can help you recognize when things are taking a turn, and knowing what to look for can help you see the red flags sooner rather than later.
  • Have a support person. Depending on where you live, the resources available for treating postpartum mental health can be difficult to navigate. Having someone to advocate for you while you find a good therapist and/or medication provider can make the difference between getting help and giving up.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. There are more individuals who experience postpartum depression each year than who sprain an ankle in that same year. As postpartum mental health becomes more widely understood, a “Congratulations!” will ideally be accompanied with a genuine, “How are you doing?”

When you’re feeling isolated, alone, and experiencing all the difficulties of depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help. If you are struggling, know that you deserve support, not only because it will benefit your child, but also because it will benefit you.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Tags: anxiety, birth, depression, medication, mental health, mood disorders, postpartum, postpartum depression, postpartum mental health, postpartum mood disorders, therapy

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