You may have heard of the baby blues, and you may even be a little foggy on when that turns into postpartum depression..or does it? Are you just supposed to be sleep deprived and moody the entire first few months?
Let's talk about that.
The First Mood Swings Postpartum
After baby is born, you have 2 weeks of a wild mood ride. This could be crying sporadically, feeling overly sensitive, irritable, angry, euphoric..or maybe even all of the above. Your moods may swing rapidly. What's going on there?
During pregnancy, your hormones change. Your estrogen levels rise a LOT. That means when baby is born, those hormones gotta go back to normal. And they aren't doing it slowly. Your body drops the estrogen level anywhere from 100 to 1000x when your baby is born. Holy f that's a lot.
What you might not know is the relationship between estrogen and your other neurotransmitters. You might have heard of serotonin (low levels are correlated with higher levels of anxiety, lower levels in mood) or dopamine (low levels correlated with issues focusing, ADHD, poor motivation). Estrogen increases serotonin and dopamine. That means right after baby is born, those neurotransmitters are literally like WTF IS GOING ON HERE? They are themselves in a frantic effort to regulate themselves.
It takes about 2 weeks. It takes about 2 weeks to start leveling out a little.
And if you don't, that's when we need to consider postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.
Beyond the Baby Blues
Postpartum depression is something that may feel like "that happens to other people."
Sure, it does.
It happens to 1 in 10 non-birthing parents and 1 in 5 birthing parents.
That's real freaking common. What about the signs?
Look out for:
Difficulty bonding with baby
Avoidance of baby/lack of interest in baby
Intrusive, scary thoughts or visuals of bad things happening to baby/you hurting baby
Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
Sadness most days
Guilt, shame, hopelessness
Inability to sleep
Worrying excessively that you cannot control
Loss of enjoying things you used to
Staying up for days on end and not needing sleep
Seeing things or hearing things you don't normally hear
Feeling paranoid about people having bad intentions to hurt you or baby
What about Trauma?
Birth trauma is also real. You might not even realize your birth was traumatic because it may have went very quickly.. you may have had a c-section after planning a home birth. You may have had so much pain you felt out of control and scared. You may have been alone due to COVID. Maybe baby almost died and was taken from you before you were able to see them. Maybe you almost witnessed the death of your partner. Maybe you miscarried. Birth is heavy. Maybe these happened and weren't traumatizing..but everyone is different. It may have been.
And you should know that these things are valid. These things can constitute criteria for PTSD. What does that mean?
It means if you're noticing after the birth, you haven't been the same...you don't feel like yourself. You're jumpy. You're on the lookout all the time. You're having nightmares or flashbacks..or thoughts back to the birth that you don't want to have.. you avoid things that never bothered you before. You're irritable and stopped enjoying things..
Maybe it was trauma.
And maybe that means we should have a conversation.
There is support for you.