As a new mother, you face a unique set of challenges. You are learning to care for a baby (and your postpartum self) while getting little to no sleep amid fluctuating hormones.
However, postpartum moms during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have an additional challenge in an already trying situation—social isolation.
As a first-time mom, you may already feel isolated and lonely after taking your baby home from the hospital. Your life seems to be turned upside down. The majority of every day is spent caring for your baby, and you get little interaction with other adults.
With stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 health crisis, new moms in Denver and across the U.S. get even less interaction and support from their family and friends.
This social isolation can intensify the feelings you already have after childbirth, increasing your risk of postpartum depression. In fact, the American Psychological Association suggests isolation can be linked to depression.
Whether your baby is 4 days old or 4 months old, being aware of postpartum depression symptoms and available resources will help you safeguard your health.
Understanding the postpartum phase
Many people associate the term “postpartum” with postpartum depression. However, the postpartum phase after childbirth is not the same as postpartum depression.
Postpartum refers to the hours, days and months after childbirth. During this time, your body undergoes changes—physically and emotionally—to return to its pre-pregnant state.
Postpartum depression refers to a medical condition. With postpartum depression, you have prolonged feelings of sadness, overwhelm and other emotions.
Understanding postpartum depression
Many women experience “baby blues” after having a baby as a result of changing hormones. Baby blues and postpartum depression are not the same condition.
The Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines baby blues and postpartum depression as:
- Baby blues may include feelings of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness that last for three to five days.
- Postpartum depression may involve feeling sad, hopeless or empty for most of the time for longer than two weeks.
Signs of postpartum depression
You may have postpartum depression if you have any of the following symptoms, and they don’t go away after a couple weeks:
- Changes in your sleeping or eating habits
- Crying often
- Feeling like a bad mother
- Feeling sad, empty or hopeless
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself and/or your baby
- Not feeling connected with your baby
- Withdrawing from loved ones and activities you enjoy
It’s important to note that postpartum depression affects each woman differently. Not every woman will experience the same symptoms or the same severity of symptoms as someone else.
Postpartum depression is a serious health condition that needs to be treated by a doctor.
Social isolation effects on mothers with postpartum depression
Reaching out to friends and family helps new moms—especially moms with postpartum depression—not feel alone. It offers you social interaction and help with your baby, possibly even a little time for yourself.
However, social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic makes it harder than ever for moms to get support from loved ones.
Whether you are following local stay-at-home mandates or self-isolating to protect you and your baby from COVID-19, typical familial support may not be available to you. This can feel traumatic if you have postpartum depression.
Whether or not you have been diagnosed yet, postpartum depression symptoms may increase because of the added anxiety, worry and isolation surrounding the events of the coronavirus pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests you are at an increased risk for stress during the pandemic if you have a pre-existing mental health condition, such as postpartum depression.
This is why it’s so important to seek help if you feel like you may have postpartum depression. A doctor can help treat your postpartum depression so you can get back to feeling like yourself again. Without treatment, postpartum depression could last for months.