I am hoping that you can help me. I am the mother of a newborn baby and I think there is something really wrong with me. My daughter is two weeks old, but ever since she was born I have become very different. I used to be a very happy and busy person, but now I can’t shake feelings of depression no matter what. I have lost interest in everything and everyone — even my new daughter! I cry for no reason, I can’t even stand to look at her!
The worst part is the guilt. I feel like I have no feelings for this baby. I know a new mother is supposed to be happy and smiling and in love with her child, but I just can’t stir up these feelings. Instead, I am worried and sad. My husband has been very patient but I am beginning to fear that he thinks I’m abnormal — what kind of mother acts and feels this way? Even my own parents are embarrassed by my lack of interest in the baby. What should I do?
Thank you so much for your brave and honest letter. So many new mothers experience the types of things that you have shared. Yet, because of their own guilt, they suffer in silence, never knowing that there are millions of other women suffering with them. I am proud of you for having the strength to reach for help and share these very personal, and difficult, feelings.
You are absolutely not alone. The feelings that you have shared are very common among new mothers. It is estimated that up to 85% of new mothers will experience some symptoms of mild depression, commonly known as “the baby blues.” For 10-15% of new mothers, the feelings of depression will be more significant and longer lasting, resulting in a formal diagnosis of Postpartum Depression.
Portpartum Depression is a term used to describe a range of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that many new mothers experience following delivery of their babies.
These symptoms and changes include:
— Depressed mood for most of the day, nearly every single day
— Loss of interest in activities that were previously pleasurable
— Hopelessness and despair
— Thoughts of suicide and or infanticide
— Fears of harming the baby
— No concern for the baby, ambivalence towards the baby
— Feeling of inadequacy, guilt and worthlessness
— Poor concentration and impaired memory
— Bizarre and strange thoughts
— Panic attacks
While I have not met you in person and have limited knowledge of your situation, I believe that what you are experiencing can be addressed and you can feel better. I suggest that you start by speaking with your primary care physician and pediatrician. Your primary care physician can go over your medical history and make an assessment of your current health in order to rule out other conditions that could be causing your depressive symptoms. An experienced pediatrician will have seen countless cases of Postpartum Depression and should be able to address your concerns and answer your questions, especially where they concern your child. Both physicians will be able to make a recommendation for further care and give you referrals to a psychiatrist or psychologist with expertise in treating Postpartum Depression.
I realize that seeing a therapist may be a big step for you. However, consider that a specialist with knowledge of Postpartum Depression will be able to spend the time necessary to speak with you about your feelings, gain a better understanding of your situation, and offer you appropriate treatment to help alleviate symptoms. All depression, including Postpartum Depression, is treatable and I believe that, with proper guidance and treatment, you can absolutely recover.
I wish you and your new family great happiness and good health.
This column is for general educational purposes only– it is not a substitute for medical attention, counseling, or therapy of any kind. The Couch and the staff of this website urge you to seek immediate medical attention if you are in an urgent, harmful, or potentially dangerous situation. Psychiatric emergencies or urgent matters should be handled by calling 9-1-1 or going to the nearest emergency room. Please note that your emails will not be answered on an individual basis and your confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. Top