Mazel tov! It’s a baby!
All those weeks of preparation, shopping, cleaning, nesting are now behind you, not to mention the nine months of nausea, anxiety, and insomnia.
It’s all in the past, and the future is a baby-hued halo of cuddles, laughs, and tiny socks.
But what if it’s not? What if the niggling anxiety of pregnancy has taken up permanent residence in your home, and all those happily imagined snuggles and glows have dissipated in a storm of tears and fears? What if your put-together, happy wife is curled into a ball on the couch and she won’t stop crying?
Husbands, this one’s for you.
Between 40 to 80 percent of new mothers experience baby blues, a turbulent time of sleeplessness, sadness, and anxiety that starts shortly after birth and can last for up to two weeks. It’s completely normal, perhaps even expected, especially if the new baby isn’t sleeping, breastfeeding isn’t going well, and everything is off-schedule and out of routine.
But for up to fifteen percent of those harried new moms, baby blues are just the beginning of a dark abyss that they can see no way out of. It can be difficult to differentiate between postpartum depression (PPD) and the regular stress that new parenthood brings.
When the feelings of sadness or despair are so powerful that they prevent your once capable wife from being able to do daily tasks – such as caring for herself and others – it’s possible and likely it’s PPD.
There are different warning signs to look out for as the days go creeping by in a mess of hormones and heartache.
Here are just a few:
She’s feeling hopeless. She can’t see beyond today, this minute, this hurdle.
She’s disconnected, from both you and the baby.
She’s short-tempered, every word is snapped, and tensions in the house are on the rise.
She’s lonely and can’t be reached, emotionally or socially.
She makes comments about not wanting her baby and not loving him.
She hints at wanting to harm the baby or herself.
For a full PPD symptom checklist, go to Babycenter.com
The important things to know:
Your wife can’t “just snap out of it” or “focus on the positive!” She is going through something real, and she will need your steadfast support combined with professional help to find her way out.
You can’t fix her – don’t try to! But you can stay strong and supportive while you guide her toward those who can help.
Experts believe the number of those suffering from PPD is even higher than fifteen percent because many women don’t seek treatment.
If your spouse is struggling, encourage her, gently, to seek professional help. If she’s unable to do the research necessary, do it for her.
If her medical provider thinks she is suffering from depression, she’ll be referred to a psychiatrist, where she may be prescribed antidepressant medication.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, postpartum depression can begin in the weeks after pregnancy or even before. About half of women with PPD, have symptoms during pregnancy, shocking!
PPD is a result of factors that are beyond her control, such as genetics, hormones, and environment. Some women might feel somehow responsible for having PPD, but depression doesn’t occur because of something she did or didn’t do. If there’s one thing you can do, it’s assure her that it is NOT HER FAULT.
The most significant PPD predisposition is a history of postpartum depression, as a prior episode can increase the chances of a repeat episode to 30–50%.
Non-pregnancy related depression or a family history of mood disturbances is also a risk factor. As are social stressors, such as feeling alone emotionally, being in an abusive relationship, and strained finances.
Left untreated, postpartum depression will affect not only your wife’s life, but the baby’s as well, leading to issues further down the road in sleeping, eating, and behavior.
PPD and Suicide:
And lastly, no one likes to talk about it, but the truth is that suicide rates during postpartum are rising. Suicide is escape in its ultimate form, and a distressed, hopeless woman will desperately want to escape her situation.
Get your wife the help she needs. She’s your partner, you best friend, and now she’s the mother of your child.
Remember that none of this is your fault, either. With the right guidance, this will soon be a distant memory, and you’ll be rejoicing once more over pairing the tiniest socks you’ve ever seen.
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