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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Monday, February 20th, 2023

By Samantha Booth, Counseling Intern



Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during childbirth, and this hormone participates in the role of bonding mothers and infants.  Oxytocin has been called the "love hormone”.   It makes one feel relaxed, affectionate and selfless.  It can aid in the intensity of the hours right before your little one enters the world and can help with what I like to call the "It was all worth it moment."  Incredibly sweet and well-meaning people look at your exhausted face and say, but it was all worth it right?  The crazy thing is that in our oxytocin filled state, it does feel that way! But why doesn't it stay that way?

There are a lot of ways to prepare for life during a pregnancy and once a baby is born.  We set up the nursery, finish our baby registry, create a birthing plan, put meals in the freezer, etc.  But there is little preparation for the massive change in identity that happens once the title of parent is thrust upon you.  I had read once that there is a grieving process that happens when you become a parent.  One grieves their life before the little one enters the picture. For some people it is short lived, but for others it takes months to years to accept this new piece of their identity or their new stage of life.

In addition to trying to understand your new self and adjust to this stage of life, you also throw in lack of sleep, crazy hormone shifts, and working around the clock to care for your beautiful (and also very dependent) little human. This can be overwhelming and manifest symptoms of Postpartum depression and anxiety.

Postpartum depression and anxiety PPD/PPA can affect between 10-20% of all new mothers.  It is more debilitating and longer lasting than the "baby blues."  PPD/PPA can be described by tearfulness and intense feelings of inadequacy, guilt, anxiety, and fatigue.  A lack of feeling for the baby is of special concern.  These feelings can happen any time during the first few months to one year after birth. Most doctors now provide several screenings during postpartum appointments.  It is important to take time and thoughtfully answer the questions on the screening and report any symptoms to your doctor.

Having a baby is a major life change.  It is beautiful and exhausting all at the same time.  But when the exhaustion and worry start to over-shadow the beautiful moments, or you are just struggling to adjust to your new identity or life stage, be courageous and talk to someone about your experiences and concerns.  It is also important for friends of new mothers to lean into a bit of vulnerability and share the normalcy of the challenges that go beyond the child’s needs. Share about the emotional difficulty, how anxious thoughts and sadness can also be a part of this miraculous time. 

If you feel any of these symptoms, or want to talk about life changes or other things with a professional, we have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton -who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.