Updated: Jun 26, 2022
"There must be something wrong with me." "Why do I feel like this?" There is something off and you can't quite put your finger on it. "Is this what postpartum depression is like?" "I don't feel like myself." There is no quick blood or saliva test that can tell you that you have Postpartum Depression. It might start out as just not feeling quite yourself. It might start out as the "Baby Blues" but it's been weeks, and you are left feeling like something is not right. Like, really not right.
Postpartum Depression can show up differently for different people. The onset can feel sudden or like a slow creep. Postpartum Depression Symptoms can show up like: Finding yourself snapping at your partner and your moods feel like you are being tossed left and right in a wild, turbulent ocean. You feel exhausted but you can't sleep or you sleep a lot and wake up tired. It's so hard to just get off of the couch. You might notice that you are crying often and for no particular reason or for tons of particular reasons but it just feels like this isn't how you normally are. At first, you might've thought it was just hormones but now you cry even when driving to the store and when the cashier gave you your change. Something feels off. You don't see the point of seeing friends and family, you have difficulty communicating and relating to others. Nothing brings you joy. Your appetite is weird, sometimes you are hungry but you don't actually want to eat anything. Or you find yourself eating without stopping. You can't think clearly, life feels overwhelming and disorganized. You can't seem to find your bearings yet you feel like you should be doing something or going somewhere. All of the sudden, you might find yourself getting panic attacks and/or intense anxiety that makes you want to bury your head in a pillow and scream. You find yourself wondering if you can be a good mother and/or if your child would be better off without you. You have this nagging feeling that you aren't good enough. You can't see a way forward, nothing is getting better or easier... You are struggling so much, that you wonder if life would be easier without you in it. You find yourself having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
Here are the Postpartum Depression Symptoms in a list format:
Depressed mood or severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with your baby
Withdrawing from family and friends
Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
Issues with sleep
Fatigue or loss of energy
Anhedonia (loss of pleasure in life)
Irritability and anger
Fear that you're not a good mother
Feelings of worthlessness and shame
Diminished ability to think clearly
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Do any of those symptoms sound familiar? Then you might be experiencing Postpartum Depression. You are not alone. 10-14% of birthing people will experience Postpartum Depression. In 2020 there were 3,613,647 births in the United States. That means approximately 500,000 birthing people in 2020 experienced Postpartum Depression. It's not just birthing people who experience Postpartum Depression. Non-birthing parents can also experience Postpartum Depression (approximately 1 in 10 non-birthing parents experience Postpartum Depression).
How do you know if you have Postpartum Depression?
The only way to receive a formal diagnosis is to see a licensed medical provider or mental health provider. Diagnosis is not always necessary to receive the help you need. If you plan to use insurance for psychotherapy, your insurance provider will require that you are given a diagnosis. One diagnostic tool that I use regularly is called the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS). This is a 10-question screening test and it helps me as a therapist understand the severity of your symptoms and how best to help you get better.
I create a quiz based on the EPDS that you can take for free. The quiz does not retain your information and I do not receive your results. This is not meant to replace diagnosis or treatment. This test might give you a rough idea of if you have Postpartum Depression symptoms.
If you receive a score that indicates you probably have Postpartum Depression, I highly encourage you to connect with a professional licensed therapist or medical provider as soon as you can. It is possible to recover from Postpartum Depression with adequate support.
If you experience thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, there are resources that can help you. Reach out to your primary care physician. Connect with a Licensed Therapist. Call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use their webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
Can Online psychotherapy help with Postpartum Depression?
There have been several studies comparing the effectiveness of online therapy and conventional in-person therapy. Most studies (link to study 1, link to study 2, link to study 3) have found that online therapy is just as effective as in-person therapy and offers numerous benefits such as accessibility and reduced cost. For example, I am able to serve people who live anywhere in California. If I was seeing people in person, I would only be able to serve a small fraction of California's residents (those who reside in the Bay Area for example.
Online postpartum psychotherapy can help treat the symptoms of Postpartum Depression. The goal of psychotherapy is to help equip you with the tools to live your best life. Your best life probably doesn't include the pesky symptoms of Postpartum Depression. Online psychotherapy would be focused on helping you reduce and eliminate your symptoms while improving the overall quality of your relationships, self-care, sense of purpose, and self-esteem. There is no guarantee that psychotherapy will completely "cure" Postpartum Depression, that is not how psychotherapy works. Psychotherapy is just one tool in your toolbox. Taking care of your physical needs including eating nourishing food, spirituality, treating medical issues, hiring professional help (e.g. nanny, housecleaners, etc), and increasing your support network can all help reduce or eliminate Postpartum Depression symptoms.
Many of us receive a message, most likely absorbed during childhood, that we must embody the self-denying, all-sacrificing mother in order to be a "good enough" mother. This generally means that we grin and bear it and sometimes deny some of our most basic needs. Parenting is a challenge, parenting pushes us to our limits even without being completely a self-sacrificing task. When we add the denial of our needs to the mix, it can spell disaster. We are humans and we have needs just like everyone else. We need to feel loved, like we belong, we need purpose and meaning in our lives. We need rest, fun, and social connection. And sometimes we need therapy if we are not feeling mentally well. We deserve to feel well. We deserve to take up space and have our needs met.