Coping With Postpartum Depression, Part I - Kimberly Thompson

      Almost 25% of all new mothers experience symptoms of depression in the year following their baby’s birth. These numbers are so high that it can almost be considered normal, although it’s certainly not healthy and it makes life so much harder. You may be wondering if you are experiencing postpartum depression, and if you are, what you can do about it.

     The first step in coping with postpartum depression is recognizing it. Here are some questions to ask yourself. You don’t have to have every symptom to be depressed.

Did you have a baby in the past year? Some women become depressed during their pregnancies, but others have a delayed reaction. Postpartum depression can crop up anytime during your baby’s first year.

Do you have a low, depressed, or blue mood? Do you feel sad and cry a lot? How about feeling numb and emotionally detached from your baby and everyone else? What about being irritable and grouchy? Do you have a lot more aches and pains than usual?

Do you lack interest in your usual things? Are you struggling to get up and do things? Is it difficult to get going or maybe to even get out of bed?

Are you excessively tired? Does your tiredness go beyond what you would expect given the amount of sleep you are getting?

Other than getting up with the baby, do you have disturbed sleep? Are you unable to go to sleep or stay asleep? Or, do you sleep too much?

Do you have disturbed appetite?  Are you never hungry, or are you always hungry? Are you losing or gaining weight without trying?

Are you negative toward yourself? Do you feel guilty over things that you can’t control? Do you automatically blame yourself any time something goes wrong? Do you beat up on yourself mentally? Do you even feel worthless or hopeless?

Do you have thoughts of death? Do you find yourself thinking that your family would be better off without you, that you would find death to be a relief, or even that you should kill yourself?

Are you physically agitated or unusually sluggish? Do other people notice a change?

Do you feel anxious? Are you keyed up, nervous, and struggling with worry?

Are you having trouble concentrating? Do you have brain fog, or are you easily distracted?

     If any of these problems are interfering with your life, or keep you from enjoying your relationship with your baby and others, you could be experiencing postpartum depression.

     Thoughts of suicide are very serious, and if you are having them, it is vital that you talk to someone you trust and get their help so that you stay safe. If you don’t have anyone you trust in your personal life, then call 911 or go to your closest hospital emergency room.

     Thoughts of harming the baby are unusual in postpartum depression, but I must discuss this briefly in the interest of safety. First, recognize the difference between thoughts of harming your baby and anxiety about harm coming to the baby. Anxiety about the baby is very common in postpartum depression. If you find yourself having thoughts of harming the baby, it’s essential that you reach out to your family and friends. Seek emergency medical help if you don’t have another way to keep you and your baby safe.

     Postpartum depression is different for everyone. You may be experiencing mild or moderate symptoms that keep you from enjoying your baby and your life. You may be experiencing such severe symptoms that you can’t function. Either way, I hope you will trust that you can get better, and that there are many people that want to help you. Your first step might be to reveal your struggles to a trusted family member or friend, and then to seek your healthcare provider’s advice. The next installment in this series will give you some practical tips for feeling better faster.


     I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Lubbock, Texas. I work with mothers and their children to help them heal, grow, and live their most vibrant lives. My particular expertise is pregnant and postpartum women, and moms of “littles.” My book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, is available on Amazon and from Praeclarus Press. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, you can work with me face-to-face; if you live anywhere else in the state of Texas, you can work with me via online therapy. Send me a message if you need more information, or call my office at (806) 224-0200 if you’re ready to book an appointment.