‘People just don’t talk about it’: What to know about postpartum depression

El Paso News

Tired mother holding her newborn child at home after tying to pump.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight women experience postpartum depression, a mental health disorder that can leave moms feeling helpless.

Kaci Wickstrom is a first-time mom to a 2-month-old daughter. She experienced her pregnancy and birth during the pandemic, which made it more stressful and often left her feeling alone.

“Postpartum depression is very real and it is very common and people just don’t talk about it,” Wickstrom said.

Once her baby was born, she struggled to find her identity as a new mom.

“I struggled really hard with finding the balance between finding the balance between being someone’s mom and still being a person,” she said.

Postpartum depression is different than the so-called “baby blues,” which is usually resolved within a few days, according to the CDC. This depression can last several weeks or even months following birth and include symptoms such as crying more than usual, feelings of anger, feeling numb or disconnected from your baby or feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting you can take care of your baby.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of postpartum depression can include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

It’s important for mothers experiencing postpartum depression to know it “isn’t a character flaw or a weakness,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

“I would like for other moms, for new moms out there to be able to say, ‘hey, I’m struggling and I need somebody to talk to and I need somebody to listen to me without making me feel like I’m a bad mom or that I’m doing something wrong,'” explained Wickstrom.

She said her family helped her get through the hardships and cope with her feelings. She explained she didn’t end up looking for professional help but thought about doing so. However, she encourages all moms to speak up about their mental health to their providers.

The Mayo Clinic suggests speaking to your doctor immediately, especially if symptoms:

  • Don’t fade after two weeks
  • Are getting worse
  • Make it hard for you to care for your baby
  • Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
  • Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Postpartum depression can be more common in women that are high risk, such as those who had complications during pregnancy or birth, women with low social support or those who experience stressful life events.

However, depression can occur with all women, regardless of the risk factors.

“It really does take a village and I think that new moms should be allowed to say, ‘I need my village,'” concluded Wickstrom, adding women need support of their loved ones when it comes to raising a child. She said women should be able to voice out if they are struggling and get the help that they need.

If you are experiencing thoughts of harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.

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