Some people are more likely than other people to develop postpartum depression. But, even though having certain risk factors may make you more prone to developing PPD doesn’t mean that you will. And you may have PPD even if you have none of the risk factors.
Prenatal Depression and Prenatal Anxiety
Until I developed postpartum depression I never really understood how you could tell the difference between hormonal mood swings and depression. I know now they’re completely different and it was one of those awakening moments where I realised I don’t know as much as I thought I knew about life. If you know what I mean. It’s kind of a hard feeling to put into words.
I’ve found pregnancy to be full of ups and downs. The hormones mess with me and luckily I knew it so even when I felt out of control at least I knew why. I didn’t feel depressed in my pregnancy but I’ve known people who have been. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health in pregnancy.
I had a lot of anxiety in my pregnancy. One of my midwives actually referred me to a prenatal mental health service because she felt I had too much anxiety. I was referred when I was about five months pregnant but my appointment wasn’t scheduled until after my due date because of how backed up the centre was. I’d say that’s a pretty clear indicator of how many women are dealing with mental health issues around pregnancy and the postpartum period. And those are just the ones who get help.
Previous History of Depression or Other Mood Disorders
If you’ve battled with depression, anxiety or mental illness in the past you have a 30% greater chance of developing postpartum depression than someone who has not had the same struggles. I would also hope that anyone who has struggled in the past is able to better ask for help if they feel something is off.
Family history also seems to play a part. And, there may even be a genetic component. The problem with this is that often depression is seen as taboo and not mentioned. As a parent I don’t want to talk to my children about negative feelings or issues because I feel that by not talking about it I’m protecting them. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case. Particularly when it comes to mental illness.
Most women, up to 80%, will feel down in the first couple of weeks after giving birth. It kind of makes sense because so much is going on. Not only has your life completely changed with the addition of a little human, but also your hormones are fluctuating, and your body is physically changing.
The baby blues should last only a couple of weeks. If you’re still feeling down it may be postpartum depression and that’s more serious.
Recent Stressful Life Events
I actually chuckled when read this while I was researching. This year is a stressful life event for most people. It’s been a hundred years since we’ve had a pandemic like this and probably most of us never thought it would happen in our lifetimes. I wonder if there will be higher instances of postpartum depression this year.
On a personal level for me I’ve had a lot of stress in my life over the past couple of year. Mostly due to my miscarriages. I’m sure that played a part.
Lack of Support
I used to roll my eyes when I heard people say “it takes a village” when talking about raising children. I understand now. Yes, you can do it on your own but it places such a huge weight on your shoulders and you never have a chance to put it down.
Women who live in cities are more likely to develop postpartum depression because they are less likely to have close support networks. I can believe this. Most of the people I know weren’t born here. They’re either from another part of Canada or another country.
All my family is in Australia and all my husband’s family is in Iran. We never noticed the distances as much as when we had kids. Now we often talk about how nice it would be to have family close by so we could have a night out. We have friends who help us, but we don’t want ask too much of them and put a strain on the friendship.
In our case the pandemic hasn’t changed our level of support much. I know that there must be a lot more people who have had less support than they would like because they’ve had to distance themselves from family members who are more at risk.
I also know I’m lucky because I can count on the support of my partner. Having an unsupportive partner also puts women at greater risk of developing postpartum depression.
Every baby is different. Some are happy, some are sad, some are gassy, some are sleepy, some are angry. Having a baby that doesn’t settle can be so stressful and make everything harder. The sound of a baby crying gets into my head and I can’t focus on anything until it’s calm. I’ve heard that part of our brains actually change after giving birth and that makes us more sensitive to crying babies but I’m not sure about the science of that.
And then breastfeeding comes into play. That’s a whole different challenge.
When the baby needs you constantly you struggle to find a moment to yourself. Those moments of self care are so important to maintain our mental health. If you can’t put the baby down to use the bathroom or make a cup of tea your brain doesn’t have time to process and you never get a chance to relax.
There are a number of other risk factors but these ones are the ones that stand out to me. I like the list here because it gives a good overview.
Looking back now I see I had a few risk factors. At the time though I wasn’t thinking about the possibility of developing postpartum depression. There’s too many other things going on while your pregnant. Something will always fall through the cracks.
This just shows me the importance of pre- and postnatal care. I’m so grateful to my midwife team for getting me on the right track to deal with this.