SIX THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID IF YOU HAVE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
1. Scary Stuff
Women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression can be very suggestible. What does that mean? It means you can hear or see something disturbing and then suddenly be convinced it relates directly to you. You can get a scary idea in your head and then not be able to get rid of it—it can sometimes get stuck in there and endlessly terrorize you. It’s best to surround yourself as much as possible with positive images so that upsetting thoughts don’t get the chance to enter your mind.
Avoid horror movies, scary or too real doctor dramas, and scary books. Don’t watch too much news, and don’t surf the internet carelessly. Be very choosy about which websites you go to and which discussion forums you join. Some “mommy websites” don’t have trained moderators running their postpartum depression forums, and you’ll run into well-meaning women telling you exactly what you need to do, and not do, to get better. They don’t know you and they don’t know exactly what you need. Each person responds differently to treatment. Some take meds and some don’t. Some have side effects and some don’t. Some have a great doctor and some don’t. Some get better quickly and some don’t. If you spend all day comparing yourself to what women on the internet have done you can drive yourself crazy. Try to go to safer sites, where trained peer support and/or research-based information are offered, like our SmartPatients forum, your state’s local support organization, or any of our great resources for moms.
2. An Overscheduled Life
Does it all need to get done right now? Really? Or is your health more important? A spotless house, empty laundry basket and dishwasher, three-course meal, and five different mom and baby classes aren’t necessary. The more you give yourself to do, the more you’re likely to beat yourself up when you can’t do it all perfectly. And trust me, you can’t do it all.
3. Thought Monkeys
A fabulous blogger once called the negative thoughts that most of us with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders experience “thought monkeys.” Many of us unwittingly lend a hand to our illness by accepting these negative thoughts; by telling ourselves we are bad people and defective mothers. I love how Sophie, the blogger who no longer has a public blog, brought this to life:
“Thought Monkeys [are] my name for those incredibly destructive, deeply internalized, mischievous thoughts that jump and screech inside my mind, demanding attention, demanding action NOW. Look at us NOW … The Thought Monkeys even have names. In no particular order they introduce themselves as follows: “I’m Not Enough of, at or for Anything”, “I’m A Big Burden”; “I’m Unlovable”; “My name is “The World Would Be Better Off Without Me” and her close cousin “I’m Not Worthy to Breathe In This Air Shared By My Friends and Family”; and my least favorite says “I’m To Blame For Every Abusive Thing That Has Ever Been Done to Me My Entire Life.” Aren’t they sweet? Each one is uglier than the last and they each think they are the most important one. Hateful little creatures.”
Sophie challenges each thought monkey. She avoids believing they are true. She fights back with her own mind, argues with herself that these thoughts are wrong. We have to do the same. We can contribute to and even further our suffering by accepting that these thoughts are reality. They aren’t. They are part of the temporary disease of postpartum depression.
4. Unsupportive People
It may help to temporarily avoid or limit your time with people who blame you for your illness or don’t try to understand, as well as people who are judgmental or don’t support your treatment and recovery path. You need positive and supportive people on your side, so spend as much time with those people as possible. And even if you don’t find them among your friends and family, you will find them among the women who have been through these illnesses, so try and find a support group in your area.
Many recent studies show that both the physical and emotional health of untreated women and their children can be negatively impacted over the long term. Babies whose mothers have untreated depression during pregnancy, for instance, are twice as likely to be born prematurely. Prematurity can lead to health problems and developmental delays.
There is just no good reason to wait it out if you are ill, either during pregnancy or postpartum. Avoid procrastination. I know you’re scared, but it’s important to reach out to a doctor and let him or her know what’s going on. As Karen Kleiman, author of This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression, wrote in a comment on Postpartum Progress:
“Sometimes people feel that a risk is greater if they ‘do’ something or take action, as opposed to just letting things be. Like, ‘If I get on that airplane during the storm, the risk will be greater than if I don’t go.’ That seems pretty clear.
Conversely, there are times when the risk is in fact higher when no action is taken, such as the decision not to do anything in response to having chest pains.
This is the case with women who are pregnant or postpartum. Women who are deciding whether or not to take medication are understandable unsettled by having to make this decision. Often they feel if they ‘take’ the medication they are taking an action or engaging in behavior, or making a choice that increases the risk, or so they believe. Thus, they feel it would be better to do nothing.
But we know that in many of these cases, it is NOT better to do nothing and NOT TAKING ACTION can be detrimental; it can significantly increase the risk potential, particularly for women who are severely ill. So it’s a perception thing. We perceive the risk to be greater if we take action. If I put this pill in my mouth I will be hurting myself or my baby. But it’s a faulty perception. Sometimes the risk is much greater when we do not act.”
This doesn’t just apply to the issue of medication, of course, because not every woman needs medication. It’s simply a great illustration of how procrastination can hurt you in the end. And, by the way, did you know that difficulty making decisions is a symptom of postpartum depression? You may have to push yourself a little bit harder to take that step of reaching out for help.
6. Acting Like You Have A Medical Degree
Unless you graduated from medical school and have completed your residency, you shouldn’t be diagnosing yourself. If you think you might have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, seek a trained professional to tell you whether you simply have the baby blues or something more. And for goodness sake, if you’re taking medication, you don’t get to decide to stop it cold turkey or reduce the dose without discussing it with your doctor first. Doing that to yourself could do more harm than good.
If you’d like help finding treatment, check out Postpartum Progress’ postpartum depression treatment specialists list. You can also click here for Postpartum Progress’ postpartum depression support groups list.
Wow!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
That explains why I stopped reading PPD books that gave all the details. They actually made me feel worse. I would start feeling their symptoms. I was just talking to my husbad last night how I can't watch scary movies anymore. I have also not gone to see my therapist in a couple of weeks thinking I have an handle on this. I don't.
So true. Thank you!
This is excellent advice, perfect for a wide range of depression and anxiety disorders. Thanks for posting it!
This is so true. I can't watch medical shows or scary movies anymore without thinking something bad is going to happen to me. Thank you so much for posting. I just found this site and I like reading what others are saying because then I know I'm not alone with my feelings.
This advice is invaluable and so is your dedication to creating a safe and informed "home" for new mothers everywhere.
Number one is soooo true! I don't know why this is the first time I've stopped to read this one.
I told my husband the other day that I want to get a t-shirt that reads, "don't tell me your deepest, darkest secrets. Tell a therapist." I'm serious, too, because people find out I'm a survivor and they treat me like I'm some kind of therapist. I need a way to say I'm not able to handle your issues and j value you as a friend ( but I don't want to be rude about it,)
all this is so true thank you
I am experiencing POst Partum depression now, it started when my son turned 3 months, by 17 he’ll turn 7 months. i am really tired of these strange feelings. i am really suffering this long. I can’t sleep at night, and still have to work at day time.I always cry for no reason, i started to hate my husband, when i loved him even before. I need help.. Thank you and GOD BLESS..
Rhea, did you ever find something that helped you overcome PPD? I am reading these comments and your message resonated with me… and it’s strange because I looked at your name, and it is my name also. I had to come back to work and have been back for almost two months and feel like I am on the verge of crying at any moment. I don’t seem to be able to organize my thoughts and/or know how to reach out and connect with anyone any more. My boyfriend and I have become more and more disconnected, and I don’t feel loved at all. I just feel so alone and like I should be the happiest person alive since I have a wonderful 3 month old, healthy baby boy. He is so wonderful yet I am so sad all the time. I know this is 5 years later for you, but how did everything turn out? Did you connect with your husband and feel better? If so, how long and what did you do to feel better?
I love this website! It is helping me right now.
I’m seeking treatment 8 weeks postpartum
and thank God because I can not take the
thought monkeys anymore. Thank you for
creating this site.
Those thought monkeys are pure hell, aren’t they? I’m really glad you found us and even more glad you are reaching out for help. You will get better. You’re doing all the right things by seeking information and reaching out to a healthcare provider. Good for you for taking care of yourself!
As an OCD sufferer who had things under control till PPD after baby #2 abruptly weaned at 6 months, I’ve always found its best to not “fight” the thought monkeys. In cognitive behavioral therapy I have learned to allow the thoughts just to “be.” Tell myself, “oh thats just an OCD thought again, you can go ahead and be there, I’m not going to fight with you.” I did this therapy when I was 19 and first dealt with OCD. It has only occasionally bothered me since and has been easily managed myself, until now at 30 with two babies and I’m having to deal with it again. On days I’m tired, its a lot harder just let it go but it truly makes the world of difference.
Oh my gosh I believe I found my Postpartum twin!! I have experienced the exact same things! I have a 7.5 month old. How are you feeling now? What things did you do that worked for you to cope?
It has been almost three years since I was finally diagnosed with and treated for PPD and anxiety (I went through 6 medical professionals to finally get help). Remembering where I was – I would never have believed that I would feel better again. Scary intrusive thoughts ruled my mind- and I thought I could manage it all on my own. I avoided the news and followed the other ‘5 things’ listed above- including detaching from my parents (who weren’t capable or didn’t try to understand) and eventually my husband (we are divorcing). I am so elated to say that I am well on the road to becoming a more developed ‘me’ for me and my wonderful daughter. And boy does that feel good. Keep at it- it may take years and more heartache than you ever thought possible- but there is a light- and that light is you.
RE: #4 Unsupportive people.
What if your husband is one of these?
My thoughts exactly!
Excellent Blog post, very informative and encouraging to women who need help but are finding it difficult to take a step towards getting it. Teresa
Hi Katherine, I am suffering with post natal depression. I am currently on meds. been taking medication for a month and a half. I still battle to sleep as my brain doesnt switch off. I take a quater sleeping tablet. Does your sleep pattern return once you feel normal? Before this happened I had no problem sleeping.
Hi Diana – I’m so glad you’re seeking treatment. Yes, as you progress with your treatment and eventually recover, you should be able to sleep well again. Many women need to take something extra to help with sleep until their other medications take full effect. Don’t lose hope, you will be able to rest well again.
I can see all 6 of these as factors in my PPD, which I had chalked up to originating with my son’s premature birth. But when you mentioned how depression during pregnancy could increase the risk of prematurity, it made me feel even worse like it was my fault since I already blame myself, but it’s only now that I’m considering the possibility I was already experiencing depression very early on in my pregnancy without knowing it.
Marybeth – It’s unlikely that depression would have caused a premature birth in your situation. The depression would have had to be quite severe — meaning you would have noticed you were experiencing something debilitating. Be gentle to yourself. You’ve been through a lot. You are a good mom.
Hi, great article, I had a question. I have suffered from anxiety and depression and ocd for 15 years and have an 8 month old. My in-laws ruined my birth moment after days of a traumatizing, natural labor in which I still haven’t recovered. I have not gotten past what they’ve done and have felt tremendous anger, saddness, and crippling anxiety and have also blamed my husband for not preventing it. My therapist thinks a lot of those feelings really come from my childhood and estrangement with my mom and the feelings/adjustment of being a new mom myself, and not really what my in-laws did necessarily. Do you think that could be true? I want to believe its deeper than what it seems, because it hurts SO badly right now and I want nothing to do with them and my body shakes with anger everytime they come visit. Their visits are putting a huge strain on my marriage and also scares me how deep the pain feels. Please let me know what you think, thank you.
Tiffany – We aren’t trained professionals, therapists, doctors, or otherwise. We are peer supporters. I’d encourage you to keep working through this with your therapist to get to the bottom of these feelings. You will find a way to heal. Be patient with the process and gentle with yourself as you fight through this.
Tiffany, I have a similar story about my inlaws, how their lack of support, hateful, thoughtless, manipulative behavior has robbed me of my joy during delivery and post partum. It’s been 10 months, and they are still this hurtful, thoughtless, and evil spirited. It took my husband 8 months to believe me, he had invalidated my feelings, ignored me, and was butt hurt that I actually said something bad about his family. This has caused so much rift in my marriage, I not only hate his family with passion, I hate my husband for being unsupportive, passive aggressive jerk, catered to others feelings rather than being in touch with mine, downright evil like his family. I have never thought in a million years that motherhood would change me to see the true colors of people. I know when someone is being mean to me just enjoy putting me down, or act like we dont matter, that is how his family acts. Now I just treat his family how they treat me, and I treat my husband how he treats me, seems like both dont like how they are treated. Sometimes dose of their own medicine is more healing to me than challenging their behavior. The reason for my depression is all I ever wanted was to be treated with some basic human decency while I gave birth and healed from postpartum, I have received the most worst of treatment. It has made me bitter and put a wall up because I live with an enemy aka husband, and I no longer want relationships because I dont want to see any more true colors of others. Its all too hurtful and I am too maxed out with hurt.
I’ve been reading lots of posts and I am so grateful to have found this. My son is 14 months and I did in fact 100 % have ppd when he was born after an emergency c section and the fact that he had his nose deviated during birth. (I forgot the actual name, I think its deviated septum) All of which I’ve never expected to happen to me, thats what I think triggered it. I tried brushing off blaming ob the circumstances in my life and thought it was just baby blues. Even though the circumstances didnt improve, I believe I still have ppd but I still have some symptoms. ☹
Nathalia, I’m so glad this post helped you. You are not alone at all in your struggle. I hope you can get help from a doctor or therapist. This can get better and is 100% treatable with help and some time.
I’m sending you peace…
i just wish i could convince my niece to read up on this, so she can learn more about this, she does not believe this could be happening to her, she says its something else and is putting ideas in her head that its something else, I really want to hep her, but she doesnt let anyone in, do you have any suggestions on how I can convine her to get help?
It is so hard to watch someone suffer and be in denial at the same time. Mental illness lies to a person, and it’s so frustrating! Unfortunately you cannot force someone to see when they are not open to it or ready. If she is a danger to herself or anyone else, that is the only time you can have control over her getting help. It’s best to keep being a constant support with unconditional love, reminding her that you believe she needs help, gently, occasionally, when you feel like she is calmer and possibly open to hearing. You don’t have to say it a lot, because that can make someone push you away. But to say that you realize she may not be ready, but you will be there when she is, might be helpful. I’m so sorry you feel stuck. I’m sending you peace, and peace to your niece too. (Lastly, it doesn’t hurt to print out what may be helpful to her and gently ask her to read it to see if she sees herself in it. Remind her that so many people go through this after having a baby, and that it has nothing to do with it being her fault. It is an illness.)
I thank I have it and I don’t no what to do
Hi Trinity. I know how you feel just over a year ago I experienced this post natal depression it was one of the worst experience of my life….but so glad I went and seeked help. There is so many women out there who are experiencing the same things you are….. don’t be ashamed of it….go to a good doctor and seek advice. All the best!
I feel like i absolutely hate myself, act like i’m strong with a smile but fear everyone thinks i’m terrible mother, pittying my children for having a mother like me. My oldest child is 3.5 with special needs and a nearly five month old. I feel people are like ‘why would you have another, that’s selfish’ ‘you’re not doing it right’ ‘You’re not caring for them properly’ going round and round and round…in one breath i’m totally in control of this then the next i can’t bring myself to hold her. Being touched, asking me questions, shaking, i can’t breath. Panic attacks! While trying to keep this all a secret so people don’t have more to judge me for. I had to have my teeth filed as i chipped them from the tension in my jaw. This isn’t a worse then you thing, this is a ‘is it postnatal anxiety?’ kinda question. This has been, since three weeks before i gave birth in May. I can’t drive, talk on the phone. Twitches, thoughts, sweating, sickness, headaches jaw ache. Can’t speak properly, can’t sleep. The last thing i can say that has really thrown me is bugs! I kept seeing bugs on me, or feeling them on me. It started getting me down it was happening that much but never related the two things Is that pna? I wanted to explain how i feel. I haven’t been able to discuss this with anyone as there are no HV available, GP on holiday. I’m doing this on my own with meds. Supported by family/friends…aswell as can be with the information they have. I also found myself rubbing a small part on my hand or face or clentching my thumb tightly. Like self soothing. HELP!
Please find more help. If your GP is on holiday, they will return. Please make an appointment and ask for professional help, including therapy. You can get better but it sounds like you have severe symptoms and you do need help. You will get better with time and help. Peace to you.
The unspportive people is my spouse, what am i suppose to do?
Sometimes it helps to have them read some posts on this website, so they can better understand what you are going through. And counseling for both of you would be helpful, especially with a therapists that specializes in postpartum mental health. This is an illness, and if your spouse does not understand that, or is unwilling to believe it, it is NOT your fault. I often tell people going through this that even if they cannot understand, they need to love unconditionally. If they don’t have the tools to do that, it is not your fault, but it’s still so painful. I’m sorry you’re going through it. I’m sending you peace.
I had a baby two weeks ago and I’m now feeling all the things these lady’s are feelings I cry for reason and I can’t stop thinking about my life and how I’m not where I wanna be.. I look at my baby and feel sadness but I love her so much.. I keep hiding it from my boy friend and my family.. Everytime they come around I play like everything is okay but really I feel like in dying inside .. I feel like taking sleeping pills or drinking every day to get rid of the feeling .. Ion know what else to do..
Hello Kay, as a woman who started drinking heavily to deal with the pain of PPD/PPA, I can tell you that it doesn’t help. It ends poorly, of course. I drank more, and then needed to drink more and more and that was never going to help me recovery. I’ve been sober for almost seven years now and I’m free of the obsession to drink away my feelings and struggle. I got help. Not just for the drinking, but I got mental health help. Owning that you are struggling is courageous and freeing. It’s a relief. I have a therapist and a doctor that prescribes medication for my depression and anxiety. We get better with time and help. So please don’t give up. This isn’t your fault. PPD is not the fault of the person, it’s an illness brought on by multiple things like hormones and biochemistry and grieving our old lives…exhaustion…situations…etc.
I’m sending you peace. Please be honest with someone you trust and let them know you need help. Catching it early will be a huge help to you!
Hi Katherine, I love your posts, and this one really made me think. And 100% agree with each single point. I suffered from PPD myself and I noticed that when I’d watched scary movies or scenes, it made me feel much worse… I noticed that I was having an overscheduled life and now I know if definitely didn’t do any good…. It’s really strange that motherhood floors most woman and yet so many of them suffer in silence. And usually once they start talk, they cannot understand why they hadn’t started to talk much earlier… Talking is a key to the way out of that hell. Great article full of useful information. Thank you! x
I was so relieved to find this site until this article. I’m frustrated by every site about depression to be myopically focused on doctors and medication as the answer for depression. That’s not because I think doctors don’t help some. It’s because the treatment outcomes for depression medications is so abysmal. Antidepressants don’t work most of the time. I did all the medications and doctors after I got PPD. None of it worked and guess what? What remains is your original depression plus the additional hopelessness of the “answers” not working for you.
I’m hoping one day we can have a more holistic and realistic discussion about PPD treatment options and the resulting outcomes. Doctors don’t always have the cure.