Q & A #2: What are your thoughts about Postpartum Depression?
One topic that is not talked about a whole lot in blogging circles or Christian circles is Postpartum Depression. Perhaps many mothers are too afraid to be transparent about it or perhaps they do not see it as a “real disorder.” Whatever the reason, there is a severe lack of awareness and information on the topic.
Obviously I am neither a doctor nor an expert on the subject. I did attain a certificate in Christian Counseling through Liberty University and the topic of Postpartum Depression (PPD) did come up in my classes. I am happy to share some of my notes and thoughts on the topic with you.
Postpartum Depression Defined
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a type of depression that women experience soon after giving birth that can occur up to 2 years after the birth of the child. Like most forms of depression the symptoms are sadness, hopelessness, guilt or feeling sad and hopeless, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, feeling overwhelmed, lack of interest in the child, over-obsessing over the child, uncontrollable crying, fear of harm to the child, thoughts of harming the child, and the list could go on. Many mothers can experience some of the above symptoms without actually having PPD, but if there are several of these symptoms happening, definitely it is best to see a doctor to rule out PPD.
Risk factors of PPD
I learned in college that there are a lot of things which can increase the risk of having PPD. Some of these risks are a difficult pregnancy or delivery, single moms, or moms without a support system (i.e. military moms with deployed husbands), prior history of depression, prior history of low self-esteem, recent abnormal life stress such as a recent divorce, financial hardship or relocation, lack of sleep, poor maternal relationship, perfectionism, former emotional trauma such as the loss of a family member to death or miscarriage, and an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy.
Causes of PPD
At the time of my course, there was a lack of a concrete cause for PPD. New studies are always coming out and they all seem to draw different conclusions. Some studies have shown that it is a hormonal imbalance after delivering a baby. Other studies say it is a lack of nutrition or a vitamin deficiency. Some say it is hereditary. It remains a mystery because some mothers have all the risk factors and do not experience PPD, and others have hardly and risk factors, yet they experience PPD. Some mothers will have PPD for one of their children, but then not with their other children.
Though I’ve never experienced PPD myself, I have had friends who have. The biggest thing that I hear from mothers who suffer from PPD is that they feel guilty for having the disorder and emotions that come along with the disorder. They know in their hearts they have been given a blessing of a child, and they don’t understand why they can’t just “snap out of it.” Conversely, I have also heard people who have never suffered from PPD say that the mothers who do claim to have PPD are just faking an illness or that they are just lazy mothers. I say both of these ideas are wrong perspectives and I believe both the guilt and the judgment of mothers with PPD are giving a door to the enemy.
False Guilt is Sin
False guilt is actually a sin because it manifests unforgiveness in the individual mother’s heart and judgment directed at her own self. Think about that for a moment. That is a burden too hard for any new mom to bear. Colossians 3:12 & 13 says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.” This compassion, kindness and forgiveness Paul talks about that should be extended toward others needs to also be given to oneself.
Accept that Mothering Can Be Stressful
We live in a sin-fallen world and PPD is a result of our flesh just like any other illness. The devil loves to get a hold on young mothers and lock them in a cage of guilt. In my opinion being a mother is the greatest gift and blessing possible to humankind! However, it is also traumatic to the human body. Hormones are all over the place. The mother’s body is sore and it is changing. Having a new baby is a huge change to the mother’s life and the entire family dynamics. Mothers are deprived of nourishment many times (since baby gets the nourishment first), and mothers are deprived of sleep. I can promise you that any thought or emotion you are feeling has been felt before by many mothers that came before this generation. New moms need to give themselves permission to have crazy emotions sometimes and to feel like they are failing. We are always the hardest on ourselves.
I remember when my girls were first born I didn’t want any help from anyone. I’ve always been very independent and I wanted to bond and do everything myself. I did not want to have my new baby out of my sight at all. However, I am also glad I did allow the help. Even a few hours to myself did wonders for my body and mood. When a new mom feels rested, that is when she can give her very best to her new baby and rest of her family.
There are times when moms need to get help from professionals. I have heard that the 3 hardest things to say are “I’m sorry,” “I forgive you” and “Help me.” With PPD, please don’t be afraid to ask for help. Denying a problem does not make the problem go away. In the Bible it talks about “examining ourselves” so that we can become more like Christ. Take the time to examine yourself and acknowledge if there is a problem. Find comfort in knowing that you are not a horrible mother because you are walking through a dark time in your life. Help can come from medicine, diet, exercise or just going to a trusted friend to “vent” or share the emotions.
Believe in God’s Promises
Finally, God cares! Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God; I will strengthen you and I will help you and I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.” Those are some pretty incredible promises from God Almighty!! Psalm 40 declares that God heard David’s cry and brought him out of the miserable clay and placed his feet high on a rock so he was once again steady in his walk. If God did that for David, He can do it for you as well! God is SO good and He loves you and your new baby. Stop giving the devil the victory by locking yourself in a cage of guilt. Accept help! This dark time is not forever! By taking care of yourself and your physical and emotional health you are doing the very best for your temple that God has given you and you are doing what is best for your new precious bundle! Proverbs 31:10 “Your worth is FAR ABOVE rubies.” Don’t forget it!