It’s that yucky little feeling that you can’t shake. Nothing’s really wrong, but nothing seems to be right either. Something is off. You should be excited and bursting with joy—because how could you not be? You just gave birth to the most precious, darling perfect little gift, and yet…you not only don’t feel elated, you can hardly muster up the energy to get out of bed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms. With 4 million women in the U.S. giving birth every year, this works out to about 600,000 who are affected. Unfortunately, these numbers may be a bit optimistic as they only reflect the reported cases of PPD. Many women are unaccounted for because they suffer silently due to feelings of shame and guilt. Previously not much was known about PPD, and support was hard to find, but in the 21st century there are many more options available for women who are dealing with PPD. Increased awareness of the condition—along with medication, therapy, and support are doing wonders to help those who suffer. Think you may have postpartum depression? Here are some of the surprising symptoms that you may be missing.
Remember when you were pregnant and you couldn’t remember anything—and everyone told you that you had “pregnancy brain” from all of the hormones circulating around your body? Have you given birth and found that instead of these symptoms going away they’ve gotten worse? Do you feel like you have trouble processing information that’s relayed to you? Do you often forget your train of thought? Do you miss appointments? Lose your keys? Neglect to return phone calls? Studies have found that both your working memory and your short-term memory can be affected by PPD. Working memory is the part of your brain that helps you process information, and short-term memory is what helps you remember where you put your bag. If you’ve been suffering from memory issues, you may have PPD.
Intrusive thoughts are unwanted feelings and thoughts that come into your head that conflict with how you normally feel or behave. They can make you feel frightened, guilty, or scared. For example, have you ever had the feeling of wanting to harm your baby if she’s been crying for too long? Ever feel like you impulsively want to pick up and leave your family behind? Intrusive thoughts—although scary—are very rarely acted upon. They are, however, not uncommon among women who experience postpartum depression. It’s worth noting that intrusive thoughts are not that uncommon overall. One study found that across six continents, about 94 percent of people reported at least one intrusive thought in a three-month period. But an increase in these thoughts can signal that you’re experiencing PPD.
Have you noticed that you’ve gotten angry more often lately? Are you lashing out at people unnecessarily? Is your fuse abnormally short with your partner, your baby, or your family members? Does everyone and everything seem to irritate you? Anger is often a surprising symptom of postpartum depression, because the typical depressed person is often thought of as quiet and withdrawn. But depression can bring about feelings of irritability, making you want to throw things and yell at anyone that so much as sighs wrong. It can also bring on a sudden bout of anger known as an anger attack. These can manifest themselves physically as a pounding heart, sweating, and a feeling of tightness in your chest. Are you worried about how your anger is affecting your relationships with your friends and family? Are you worried about the well-being of your child? PPD may be to blame.
You’re not feeling sad, not feeling misery, and you’re not crying…the problem is you’re not feeling anything. Do you feel empty? Are you often just going through the motions almost like a robot? Does it feel like you’re disconnected to the people you used to be close to or the things that you used to love to do? Do you no longer get inspired by the things that once brought you joy and excitement? Feeling numb or the inability to find joy and happiness day to day are often symptoms of PPD. Do you also feel unable to to bond with your baby? This is a symptom of PPD too. Unfortunately, most women feel very guilty over the lack of warmth they feel for their newborn, which serves to compound the issue.
You would think that as exhausted as a new mother becomes from caring for her child that she would welcome the opportunity for a bit of rest and fall blissfully to sleep when an opportunity presented itself. Unfortunately, many women who suffer from postpartum depression experience trouble with sleep habits. In instances of PPD, many women can have problems falling asleep or conversely can end up sleeping too much. Irregular sleep patterns are normal for a new mother trying to get accustomed to a changing schedule, but if you’re finding that you’re often having trouble falling asleep when the opportunity arises, you may be experiencing postpartum depression.