Major depression and bipolar disorder – two of the most common types of depression – can often be lifelong and ongoing without help. While both are treatable, both typically result in thoughts and behaviors that feed into a cycle of depression that keeps the symptoms constant or, in some cases, making them worse. Psychotherapy and related support are often required to overcome these conditions.
Postpartum depression is a bit different. While it is unfortunately true that some women do experience ongoing symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) if it is left untreated, many others overcome PPD almost spontaneously – weeks or months down the road, when the transition to parenthood has settled, hormones have balanced, and both partners have been able to figure out their co-parenting roles.
It is because PPD can go away on its own (even though that is not a guarantee) that many women do not seek treatment. But the problem is that, even in situations where PPD has faded away, the effects and experience of that post-partum depression can be long-lasting.
Ways that Post-partum Depression is Traumatic
PPD is, in many ways, traumatic. Most people expect having a baby to be this joyful, exhilarating event. But a large percentage of women end up experiencing at minimum a mild form of post-partum depression (known as the “baby blues”) and many others experience more profound and heavy emotions with symptoms such as emptiness, loneliness, sadness, and depressed mood.
Those negative emotions can have many long-term consequences, even after the PPD has gone away. Many women experience:
- Fear over having another child. There are many women that experience anxiety over having PPD again, and some women that will avoid future pregnancies specifically because they do not want to experience postpartum depression.
- Guilt and shame over not fully appreciating the baby’s first few months. PPD can make it difficult for new mothers to bond with their baby. After the PPD goes away, many women feel guilt about the experience and feel sadness that they did not fully enjoy those days.
- Reliving the experience. Many women remember vividly what it was like to live with PPD. They may have flashbacks or extreme levels of empathy for other moms. They may also still have issues with their partner that resulted from their PPD experiences.
These are only a few of the ways that postpartum depression is traumatic for the moms that experience it. Many women that have postpartum depression struggle with the effects of it long after the PPD has gone away.
Trauma Needs Support
Not everyone will overcome postpartum depression on their own. But even those that do can still live with the effects of having it long after the postpartum depression has gone away. Those emotions benefit from ongoing support by counselors and therapists that understand how to work with both PPD, trauma, anxiety, and more.
Postpartum depression may be common. But we have therapies now that can help address not only the PPD itself, but the months and years after. Seeking help is beneficial for anyone that feels they are struggling, and no one should feel like they need to “wait it out” alone.