Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know
New mothers with postpartum depression can feel very alone. But at least 20% of new mothers experience it. Here's how to cope.
Healing From Postpartum Depression continued...
For Garman, in retrospect, there were warning signs that she might be at higher risk for postpartum depression. "I had dealt with anxiety on and off when I was younger, and took medication for it," she says. "I'd even seen one of my close friends go through postpartum depression. But in myself, I just couldn't see it." Even during treatment, Garman struggled with feelings of guilt. "I kept asking my social worker, 'Why do I feel like this?' And she'd say, 'Christina, it's not you.' I really had to learn to forgive myself for feeling that way."
Merritt says her son was about 3 before she really felt confident caring for him. She says the transition to parenthood is so rough that almost every new mom could benefit from therapy. "Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience," she says. "It changes your marriage, your career, everything. People don't get it. Even though I was fortunate and had a lot of people helping me, no one really understood what was going on."
"There's nothing that's not stressful about bringing a new baby into your home," Silverman says. "For many women, it helps just to know they're not alone. Remember those pictures of Brooke Shields when her first daughter was born? She looked like the glowing mother, but now we know, because she shared her story, that she was miserable. So if you're miserable, too, it doesn't mean you're defective. You're not crazy. It's OK that you feel crappy, and it's OK that you don't feel this instant bond. But it can get better, and it will -- if you get help."
Creating a Postpartum Wellness Plan
Even if you're not at risk for postpartum depression, it's a good idea to create -- in advance -- a comprehensive wellness plan to follow after the baby is born. "This can actually help prevent postpartum depression," says expert Shoshana Bennett, PhD. Key elements of the plan include:
Sleep deprivation can induce or worsen postpartum depression. Even if you'll be breastfeeding, designate someone else to share nighttime duties. Consider pumping so that someone else can feed the baby on occasion, and you can get a few full sleep cycles.