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Do I have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety?

At 28 years old, Malia was delighted to have had an easy pregnancy – she’d had no major health issues, was thrilled with newfound glowing skin after having suffered from acne throughout her life, and barely had morning sickness, save for the first two weeks after discovering she and her husband, Chris, were expecting.

The delivery was smooth as well, she says. “Not like I had any frame of reference because Kyle was my first, but there was no drama or trauma, really,” recalls Malia. “I started getting contractions while relaxing at home, got to the hospital within about half an hour, got admitted, an epidural… about four or five hours later, we had Kyle. And it was the best feeling in the world. I literally remember telling Chris, ‘I don’t think I could ever be happier.’”

Three weeks later, Malia says Chris found her sitting on the rocking chair in the living room, staring into nothing, while baby Kyle wailed in his bassinet.

“We figured I was sleep-deprived and just really tired,” says Malia. “But that was just one thing. I was so sad. I remember thinking more than once, ‘What have I done? What did I do? What am I doing having babies?’

“And then the guilt of it all, the worries that came rushing over me with everything. I went from wanting to party with my girlfriends in the Bahamas to not wanting to leave Kyle for a minute, even with my mother-in-law. When I was with the baby, I wanted out. When I wasn’t with the baby, even if I was just in the bathroom, I was a mess.”

At six weeks old, Kyle was still not latching properly; at a breastfeeding clinic, Malia confided in the lactation specialist. She told her she’d been exhausted from no sleep, and guessed that was the reason for the anxiety and sadness was because of fatigue and nothing more.

The lactation specialist, Malia says, kindly provided the name of an OB social worker who worked in the same building. “She didn’t tell me I had any kind of disorder or make me feel like there was something wrong with me,” shares Malia, “but it was more like, ‘Here’s someone to just talk to.’ I didn’t call.”

Six months later, Malia experienced no improvement with her sleep patterns, even when Kyle’s began to regulate. She says she was still in a constant state of sadness and panic. At her husband’s pleas, she finally made an appointment with her physician, who diagnosed her with both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety

In the ‘70s, the medical profession began to observe sadness, irritability, sleep challenges and appetite changes as being present in women, and they called it postpartum depression. Today, it’s widely acknowledged that postpartum depression comes with symptoms of anxiety as well.

Many mothers who’ve recently given birth feel excessive worry, an inability feel calm and relaxed, and are consistently tense and frightened for their baby’s safety and overall health. In some cases, some postpartum moms also report symptoms of OCD, or obsessive- compulsive disorder.

If you’re feeling any of the aforementioned symptoms, especially for more than two weeks straight, it’s important to seek out guidance and treatment. Those with mild symptoms may feel better with talk therapy, while others might opt for cognitive behavioral therapy, which is often suggested to anyone suffering from OCD, anxiety and depression.

In more severe and serious cases, doctors may prescribe SSRIs or SNRIs (serotonin uptake inhibitors) which are used to treat major depression, generalized anxiety disorder and OCD as well.

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