No matter how excited you are during your pregnancy, the first few weeks and months after childbirth will likely be emotionally exhausting. You'll be getting little sleep, and you'll have to learn to juggle new responsibilities with your current ones. With hormonal and emotional changes, an estimated 9–16% of women experience postpartum depression (PPD). How can you tell the difference between exhaustion and depression? Consider the following range of emotions to determine if your feelings are within the normal range of recovery or have increased to the point of depression.
Feeling #1: Regret
It's completely natural to reminisce about your life before you brought your baby home. Many women wonder when they'll be able to leave the house with friends again. If you're nursing, you might be wondering when you'll be able to leave the house at all without the baby. Those feelings are normal, and should begin to dissipate as your get used to your baby's schedule.
If those feelings persist for months, or if you start to feel regret for having had the baby, you should talk to your spouse and obstetrician right away. It's especially important to pay attention to anger or resentment toward your baby.
Feeling #2: Self-Hate
Whether you're brand new to motherhood or you're adding a second or third child, you're likely going to second guess yourself on some decisions you make about feeding, dressing, or playing with your baby. It's easy to recognize when you mess something up, especially when you're sleep-deprived.
Unfortunately, when you beat yourself up too much, you might start to feel like a bad mother or have feelings of self-hatred. The following feelings are signs of PPD, especially if you can't talk yourself out of them:
- Telling yourself you're not meant to be a mother
- Telling yourself your children are better off without you
- Thinking you're a bad wife, friend, or daughter
- Obsessing over mistakes or slip-ups
Feeling #3: Isolation
Motherhood can be a lonely experience, especially when the baby is a newborn. You're the primary source of comfort for the infant, and you're the one whose body and mind need to return to a "new normal" after delivery. It's perfectly normal to feel alone or somewhat isolated.
This feeling of isolation can be problematic, however, if you start to feel dread about being alone. You might also feel so isolated that you feel empty inside. There's a common misconception that depression is the same as sadness, but it can also be a complete lack of emotions. This lack of emotions often stems from a lack of interpersonal experiences.
If you're experiencing extreme versions of any of these emotions, talk to your spouse and OB as soon as possible. You and your spouse can make arrangements and create open lines of communication, while your OB can recommend support groups or even medication to help you get back to feeling like yourself. Fleeting negative emotions are normal after childbirth, but extreme feelings of regret, self-hatred, and isolation are signs of PPD and need to be addressed as soon as possible.