Guest Blog Post: Understanding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

In honor of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month this May, we will be featuring guest bloggers, each of whom brings their own unique expertise and perspective to the discussion. It is my hope to help educate and normalize the experiences of ALL moms.

Guest Blog Post: Understanding Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

By Staci Lee Schnell, M.S., C.S., LMFT

Any woman can develop a perinatal mood disorder; however, here are some risk factors to be aware of:

• Personal or Family history of Depression or Anxiety
• History of severe PMS or PMDD
• Chronic Pain or Illness
• Fertility Treatments
• Miscarriage
• Traumatic or Stressful Pregnancy or Birthing Experience
• Abrupt Discontinuation of Breastfeeding
• Substance Abuse

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a perinatal mood disorder such as Postpartum Depression (PPD) or Anxiety are very important in order to get the appropriate help. Many new Moms have some bad days or experience the “baby blues”, but PPD and Anxiety are not just bad days. Approximately 15-20% of new mothers will experience a perinatal mood disorder. Women with PPD or Anxiety have many of the below symptoms most of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer. These symptoms make it feel very hard to live life each day.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

If you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms you may have Postpartum Depression:

• Overwhelmed: Feeling like you can’t handle being a mother, wondering whether you should have become a mother in the first place.

• Guilty: Believing you should be handling new motherhood better and your baby deserves better. Feeling shame and asking yourself “why can’t I snap out of this?”

• Disconnected: Not feeling the happiness or connection that you thought you would. A lack of bonding with your baby.

• Angry: Feeling irritated, angry, annoyed, resentment or even out of control rage.

• Empty: Feeling empty, numb or disconnected. Just going through the motions of life and feeling nothing.

• Sad: Feeling sadness beyond the typical “baby blues”.

• Hopeless: Feeling like it will never get better and very confused and scared.

• Afraid: Feeling like you will never be yourself again and that others will judge you. Scared you may hurt yourself or your baby.

• Appetite: No appetite, or eating all the “wrong” things.

• Insomnia: Can’t sleep, even when baby is sleeping even though you are exhausted.

• Brain Fog: Lack of concentration and focus.

Postpartum Anxiety Symptoms

If you have had a baby within the last 12 months and are experiencing some of these symptoms you may have Postpartum Anxiety:

• Can’t Stop: You feel like you have to be doing something at all times. Your thoughts are racing. You can’t quiet your mind. You can’t settle down. You can’t relax.

• Excessive Worries and Fears: You feel really worried all the time. You are constantly questioning yourself. You feel a sense of dread.

• Disturbing Thoughts: You are having scary thoughts. These thoughts may start with the words “What if …”

• Physical Symptoms: Backaches, Headaches, Shakiness, Panic Attacks, Stomach aches, or Nausea.

• Appetite: No appetite, or eating all the “wrong” things.

• Insomnia: Can’t sleep, even when baby is sleeping even though you are exhausted.

If you are having the symptoms of PPD or Anxiety as listed above, please seek treatment. PPD and Anxiety are temporary and very treatable with professional help. Medication, therapy, and support groups are all appropriate and extremely helpful forms of treatment. Please remember, new motherhood is challenging for everyone, but you should not be constantly miserable. If you find yourself wondering, “Is this normal? A good question to ask yourself is, “Is this normal behavior for me?” If it’s not, there is help. You do not need to suffer! Call your doctor, therapist, or local support group.

Important: If you are having moments where it seems like you can see or hear things no one else can if you are feeling paranoid as if others are out to get you, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, it’s important to reach out for help right now. These symptoms require immediate attention as you could be experiencing Postpartum Psychosis. If you have these symptoms, your illness has the potential to take over and lead you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. In order to avoid that it is important to reach out for help right away so that trained professionals can help you get stabilized and healthy. There are countless women who have had postpartum psychosis and recovered 100%.

Resources for Assistance or Further Information:

Staci Lee Schnell is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. In 2016, she began serving a three-year term as a Broward Association for Marriage and Family Therapy Board Member. She received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Child Development from Florida State University in 1991. Staci then went on to earn her Master of Science Degree in Family Therapy as well as a Clinical Specialist Degree in Family Systems Health Care from Nova Southeastern University in 1993. As a therapist, Staci has extensive experience working with adolescents and adults providing individual and family counseling. She specializes in childhood and adult ADHD, Anxiety Disorders, Couples Therapy, Postpartum Counseling and Medical Family Therapy. Staci is trained in Family Systems Theories and typically practices Brief Systemic Therapy. Besides being a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Staci is the President of SLS Therapy, Inc. as well as the Clinical Director and Owner of the Counseling and Wellness Center of South Florida.

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