When Postpartum Depression isn't Just Depression

These days there is a lot of awareness and information out there about postpartum depression and that’s great. But the name postpartum “depression” can be misleading because sometimes postpartum depression doesn’t manifest as typical feeling “down” depression. Sometimes it comes in other shapes and forms. So for anyone who has experienced distressing mood changes any time in the year after birth, here’s what you should know.

The name postpartum depression covers a wide variety of symptoms and not all of them have to do with being or feeling “down”. It’s easy to forget that when the word “depression” is in the disease’s name! This list of postpartum depression symptoms from Beyond the Blues by Shoshana Bennet and Pec Indman is one of the most comprehensive out there:

  • Excessive worry or anxiety, fears
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Sleep problems (either the woman cannot sleep or sleeps too much)
  • Physical symptoms or complaints without apparent physical cause
  • Discomfort around the baby or a lack of feeling toward the baby
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure
  • Changes in appetite, significant weight gain or loss

Notice the classic signs of depression, such as sadness and feeling down are listed, but so are lots of others that may not immediately be associated with postpartum depression like anger, feeling overwhelmed and changes in appetite. With these less known symptoms come new challenges for women coping with them because the stereotypical cures for classic depression - like getting out, seeing friends, getting dressed and made up and exercising - don’t always work. In fact, sometimes they can make them worse!

So what’s a woman to do? First off, recognize, realize and accept that the symptoms of postpartum depression can manifest in a wide variety of ways - some of which you may never have imagined would accompany postpartum depression! Next, perhaps try some of the classic cures for depression, like seeing friends and exercising. If those don’t work, it’s time to move on and consider therapy and/or medication.

With all the information and support on postpartum depression, it is surprising that so much of it is focused on classic signs of depression. It is time to expand beyond the realm of typical symptoms of depression and acknowledge a wider, more diverse variety. So if you’ve had a baby in the last year and are experiencing distressing emotions of any type, stop and consider that you may be suffering from postpartum depression, even if you don’t feel “down”.