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Bundle of Joy or Depths of Despair?

While doing research for planning the postpartum support group I recently started, I googled “facilitating postpartum support group”. Without fail and no matter how I worded my search, I came up with postpartum depression support group. The focus of my group is not postpartum depression although we will talk about it as necessary. However the results of my search are sad testament to the prevalence of postpartum depression. One in seven will experience it in the US. What this means though is that if you are diagnosed with it, you are not alone. It is very easy when you are in the throes of darkness, to feel like you are the only one who has ever gone through it. This can be very alienating which in turn may deepen the depression.

Postpartum depression symptoms may 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

  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy

  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

If you have any of these symptoms for more than 2 weeks, you may very well have PPD (postpartum depression). Please don't hesitate to discuss this with your care provider. PPD is very treatable usually with a combination of talk therapy and medication. There is no need to suffer in silence when you should be enjoying bonding with your little one. If you have any thought of harming yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately.

Some breastfeeding women worry that anti-depressive medications can harm the baby through breastmilk. However, the risk is usually small with the right medications. The risk of having a severely depressed mom may well be much greater than any risk of medication being passed through the breastmilk.

Please do not feel ashamed to ask for or accept help with your activities of daily living. All postpartum families should have help for the first few weeks regardless of whether PPD is a factor. It can also be helpful to get out of the house to spend time with other Moms in the same stage of life. If you live in the Helena MT area, I hope you will join us on the second Tuesday of the month at Dancing Lotus Center at 7:00 pm. Friendship divides our grief and doubles our joy. That is the intent for our get togethers. It is a safe place to share your joys and struggles, thus supporting each other out of the depths of despair and delighting in that bundle of joy.

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