My girlfriend and I have been talking about having kids and she mentioned that in Japan all mothers suffer from postpartum depression. I was a bit taken back by this. I didn’t think that all women suffered from this. o_o Do you have any thoughts? I’m not sure if she is correct or not, but you were writing quite a bit on the subject so I thought I’d ask.
I am not an expert on Japan, or Japanese culture. However, I do know that only 15% of women in the world suffer from actual Postpartum Depression. However, 50-80% of women can experience very normal ups and downs the first couple weeks after birth (Bennett, 2009). This is called the “Baby Blues,” and is quite different from Postpartum Depression (PPD).
The Baby Blues can seem daunting, but they are quite normal for women after childbirth. Many experience ups and downs related to the hormonal changes going on in their body after the birth, and add-on top of that the lack of sleep, it can suck big time. It’s perfectly normal, and sometimes expected, for women to suffer some irritability, mood swings, and overwhelmed feelings, but they typically peak after the 4th or 5th day, and end around two to three weeks postpartum (Webmd.com, 2010). Anything after that initial two to three weeks, even mild symptoms, is then considered PPD.
PPD is a serious mental illness. Women who suffer from PPD will often deal with teariness, feelings of sadness, angry outbursts, as well as suicidal feelings and fears of hurting herself or the baby. Feelings of inadequacy to care for the baby can occur as well. It gets in the way of normal functioning, and should be treated by a medical professional (There are alternative treatments, but you should always talk to your doctor first). Many women who suffer from PPD start seeing symptoms around the 3rd of 4th month postpartum, but it can happen sooner. Some women even experience depression symptoms before the child is born.
It’s very important to get treated if you suspect you are suffering from PPD. It’s important for you, and for the baby. If left untreated, some women (25%) experience chronic symptoms for much longer than the “typical” year that is associated with PPD (Bennett, 2009). I know from my own experience that this is true. I did not seek treatment until almost two years later, and I still deal with depression from time to time, even though I am on medications.
Here is a list of symptoms of PPD:
- Depressed mood-tearfulness, hopelessness, and feeling empty inside, with or without severe anxiety.
- Loss of pleasure in either all or almost all of your daily activities.
- Appetite and weight change-usually a drop in appetite and weight but sometimes the opposite.
- Sleep problems-usually trouble with sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping.
- Noticeable change in how you walk and talk-usually restlessness, but sometimes sluggishness.
- Extreme fatigue or loss of energy.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, with no reasonable cause.
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
- Thoughts about death or suicide. Some women with PPD have fleeting, frightening thoughts of harming their babies. These thoughts tend to be fearful thoughts, rather than urges to harm (Webmd.com, 2010)
While the symptoms are all good reasons to seek medical treatment, the last one is really important. Those fearful thoughts are what I have called dark thoughts. They can either be thoughts about harming or even killing yourself, or your baby. Far too many women who have suffered from PPD have either attempted suicide, or have been successful. I never attempted to commit suicide, but I had the thoughts of wanting to, and I had thoughts of harming my daughter. It is quite terrifying, but it’s important to remember that those thoughts are not your actual thoughts. It is the depression talking.
It is important to remember that while the Baby Blues can be tough to deal with, it is only temporary. PPD is very often much more severe, and can get in the way of your functioning, and can lead to suicide. Baby Blues and PPD are different, and should be recognized as such. If you believe you may be suffering from PPD, please seek help. It is treatable, and you can feel like yourself again. There are roughly 1 million other women that have suffered from it, so you are not alone. You are worth the time and effort it will take to get better. It wont be easy, but it is definitely worth it.
I hope this answers your question, and sheds some light on the topic for you. I did my best. 🙂
Bennett, S. (2009, February 14). Baby blues or postpartum depression. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mommy-mental-health/200902/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression
Webmd.com. (2010). Postpartum depression- symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/depression/postpartum-depression/postpartum-depression-symptoms