While many think postpartum depression is only in the first couple of months post baby, when does postpartum depression start?
For many years, postpartum depression has been something that women deal with behind closed doors. I hear of mothers who have held everything together when their partners were around. Then they completely lose it when their partners leave for work each day. Because talking about postpartum depression is relatively new, there are plenty of myths and misinformation associated with this common struggle.
Recently, I heard about a mother who tried to get help for her postpartum depression. She was turned away from the obstetrician because her baby was “too old” for her to be diagnosed. The baby was four months old. Time and again, I hear of doctors turning mothers away from getting the help they need, telling them it’s just hormones or that deep breathing exercises will solve it. I myself had to fight for the proper care in my journey. This makes me pause and wonder what they teach at medical school in regards to postpartum depression.
So when does postpartum depression actually start?
Let’s be clear: Postpartum depression can hit any time after birth until the child is a year old. It can happen suddenly or gradually, and the intensity can be mild, moderate, or severe.
I suspect I had postpartum depression after my first child was born. Although my GP and private midwife screened with testing, neither of them took action or even let me know that I may need help. When my second baby came along, I suddenly had a 2 year old and a baby to take care of. While I tried to adjust to our new normal, postpartum depression gradually built up until it was truly horrific. I was screened as per usual in Australia, but neither of them thought I needed help. It wasn’t until I went to my GP and directly told him I needed help that he wrote a referral. By that time, my baby was over 9 months old. Thankfully, my GP was receptive to my request and was able to connect me with the help I needed.
What concerns me, though, is that not everyone struggling with this difficult and dark time has the personality I do to go and demand to be helped. If this is you, sweet Reader, I am giving you permission: Permission to get re-screened, permission to say bluntly to your doctor that you need help, permission to switch doctors. If you are a loved one to someone you think is struggling with postpartum depression, I am giving you permission to come alongside them and be there for them when they go to the doctor. Hold their baby, go in the room with them for moral support, or even speak up for them if they are too shy or ashamed to do it themselves (with their permission, of course). Whatever your situation and whatever you need to do, please know you are not alone in this journey.