Have you had a baby in the last year?
Have you noticed changes in your energy level, sleeping patterns, or appetite?
Do you feel withdrawn or distant from other people? Lonely?
Do you have trouble thinking or making decisions that you didn't have before?
Have you lost interest in the things that used to make you happy?
Do you feel worried or anxious? Guilty or ashamed?
- Do you feel extremely sad, hopeless, or worthless?
Do you feel inadequate as a mother or disconnected from your baby?
Many new mothers have at least one of these experiences at some point - having a baby involves challenges and changes in any family, so it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
However, if you or a woman you know is experiencing several of the above signs on a daily basis, it may be time to consider the possibility of postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth. PPD typically occurs within 6 to 12 months after birth (of any baby, not just a woman's first) and causes a mother to feel significant sadness, anxiety and distress that can interfere with daily life.
PPD affects about 10 - 15% of all mothers. However, because war and deployment cause unique stressors and challenges to military families, this rate may be even higher among mothers with military involvement.
There is no single cause of PPD. It is not your fault. However, experts have been able to identify several factors that put some women at a higher risk for PPD. These include:
Depression or anxiety before or during pregnancy
Difficult pregnancy or a fussy baby
Social isolation or poor social support
Stressful life events
Deployments and/or mobilizations separate family members and can often be a major source of stress. Women in these situations may experience more of these risk factors for PPD, regardless of whether they are a servicemember or a spouse.
What if I think I might have PPD?
First of all, talk to someone you trust.
Most mothers are able to fully recover from PPD. Because each woman is affected by PPD differently, each woman will have a different recovery experience. Some women will recover quickly while others need more time. An approach that works well for some women might not work as well for others. You just have to find what works for you.
There are many ways to treat PPD. Here are some ways that professionals can help:
Lifestyle is also a very important part of recovery. Healing is much harder if you don't have enough support. Seeking support from family and friends may be one of the best things you can do. Women with PPD have found the following helpful:
Support from family, partner, and friends
Fresh air and sunlight
Remember that you are not alone and that PPD is common.
Why is it important to get PPD treated?
You are important.
PPD causes emotional and physical difficulties as well as social and thinking problems - no woman should have to deal with these challenges on her own. You deserve the chance to feel like yourself and fully experience the relationship with your new baby.
This is a time to bond with your baby.
The connection between a mother and her baby is very special. However, PPD can deprive you of your chance to make the most of this bond. Missing out on the pleasures of this early relationship can be very hard on both you and your baby, but with help, you don't have to miss out.
PPD comes between you and the people who care about you.
Because PPD can have such a strong effect on you, it can also impact your relationships with the people you love. Treatment may be able to help you reconnect with the people who are important in your life - people who may be especially good supports as you face the challenges of PPD. Remember, you do not have to face this alone.
Who can I go to for help?
Start by talking to your doctor.
Military and Family Life Consultants (MFLC) offer free short-term, non-medical support or can provide referrals:
Barbara Cox: 508-233-7708 (MA)
Barbara Powers: 508-233-7953 (MA)
Marie Kuhn: 401-275-4317 (RI)
For access to short-term counseling, visit www.militaryonesource.com or call 800-342-9647.
For more information on PPD and to connect to other women who have experienced PPD:
Information for this page provided by the Boston University School of Social Work's Strong Families Strong Forces.