Having a baby is certainly a joyous occasion, but a newborn also comes with an added layer of stress for a new mother.
Lack of sleep, juggling other needs, physical and emotional changes, and increased responsibility can affect anyone’s well-being and require an adjustment period. However, if symptoms are more extreme, making it difficult to complete normal daily activities, or get worse over time, postpartum depression may be the cause.
If you are concerned about yourself, a friend, or family member, help is available. New Jersey has one of the most robust postpartum depression support systems in the country. We were the first state to require universal screening of mothers who recently delivered babies for postpartum depression, many support groups are available across New Jersey, and there is a dedicated state postpartum depression hotline, “Speak Up When You’re Down,” operating 24/7 at 1-800-328-3838.
What is Postpartum Depression and What Does It Look Like?
Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a new mother. Most of the time, it occurs within the first three months of childbirth. A combination of stress, lifestyle factors, and hormonal changes after birth can cause this condition.
Some symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling hopeless or overwhelmed
- Excessive worry and increased anxiety
- Crying for no apparent reason or more often than usual
- Feeling out of control of moods and feelings
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering details
- Exhaustion and oversleeping, or not being able to sleep while baby sleeps
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Withdrawing and avoiding friends and family
- Driven to anger or rage with little provocation
- Difficulty bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby
- Hallucinations or delusions
A resource used by clinicians to help identify postpartum depression, called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, can be found online: https://www.helpguide.org/misc/edinburghscale.pdf. Though not a replacement for diagnosis by a professional, it’s recommended that mothers who score 13 or above should seek immediate help and medical care.
Finding Support and Treatment
If you suspect you or a loved one are suffering from postpartum depression, reach out for help right away. In addition to the New Jersey hotline, you can call the toll-free 24-hour hotline US Office of Women’s Health – 1-800-994-9662.
Search for a support group near you. Many groups are located throughout the state, and meetings are conducted in both Spanish and English. You can find a list of support groups in New Jersey at the Postpartum Support International web site: http://www.postpartum.net/locations/new-jersey.
The treatment for postpartum depression often includes medicine, talk therapy, or both. Contact a health care professional, OB/GYN, or primary care doctor who can refer you to a specialist who can help. Here are some tips to help manage stress and emotions:
- Ask for help with the baby from loved ones and friends.
- Rest as much as you can. Learn how to sleep while the baby sleeps.
- Don’t hide your feelings, even though they might be shameful or frightening. Talk about them with your partner, family and friends, with other mothers, or join a support group.
- Try to find time for yourself or visit friends and family, with or without the baby.
- Go easy on yourself. Don’t try to do too much or be perfect.
It’s estimated that 1 in 7 new mothers develop postpartum depression, so you are not alone. Postpartum depression is both temporary and treatable. Symptoms do decrease and can go away completely with proper medical attention. Don’t delay if you or someone you know may be suffering from this condition--seek help soon.