How do you decide what is grief and what is postpartum depression when you are suffering a recent baby loss? It's hard to tell because the symptoms are so closely related. The answer may be both. Let's look at some of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression according to the Mayo Clinic's website:
Depressed mood or severe mood swings
Withdrawing from family and friends
Inability to sleep (insomnia)
Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
Intense irritability and anger
Feelings of worthlessness, shame or guilt
Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
Severe anxiety and panic attacks
I am not a clinical expert but to me these are very similar symptoms to what you feel while experiencing grief. So, how do you know when one is affecting you more than the other and what you should seek help?
I was interviewed a couple weeks ago by an organization called FOZA whose mission is to bring awareness to postpartum depression as well as maternal suicide, and it made me think of how little this subject is discussed among loss parents. Society already has deemed baby loss as a taboo topic and one that makes people squirm in their uncomfort if we should dare tell the truth of our struggles to become a mother, and it occurred to me that even more than that, the topic of maternal postpartum depression after loss was almost unheard of. I doubt that those who tell us to "move on" from our loss would even stop to consider that we may also be suffering from postpartum depression. Check out FOZA and their origin story at their website HERE and you can listen to my interview HERE.
So what should you do if you aren't sure what is postpartum and what is a normal part of the grief process? I would assess how you're feeling after about 2 weeks and if there are any feelings at any time before then of wanting to harm yourself or end your life you need to get professional help right away. After about 2 weeks the initial bone rushing grief usually starts to subside and there are times you will actually find yourself smiling or possibly even a laugh might eek out. You will still have periods of sadness and deep grief but it will start to get easier to come out of. You will start to feel a general ease and while you can expect it to come and go for a long time after, it will start to loosen its grip.If you don't find this to be the case please talk to your doctor to see if you may have more severe depression symptoms.
When I had any loss my doctor sent me home with prescription for Zoloft. I don't know if it actually helped since I had never experienced that level of grief before to compare, but the risks were low enough that I decided it was better than nothing and gave it a try. It certainly didn't take away anything for me but perhaps it kept me from slipping into a much more destructive depression. Your doctor will be able to hep you decide what is best for your situation. If postpartum depression is unresolved it can become extremely dangerous and take a toll on the mother's health as well as increase the risk of maternal suicide.
Keep in mind that men can also suffer from postpartum depression. They can also feel intense sadness and fatigue as well as anxiety and relationship problems. If you find your partner is suffering form any of the above symptoms also it is possible that he may be struggling with postpartum depression and should seek treatment from a doctor.
The most important thing you can do is to keep an assessment of your feelings. Journaling them daily will help get them out especially of you find It hard to talk to others in the early days and if you find too many days are going on and your symptoms are worsening, it may be time to seek some help. There is no telling how quickly your symptoms can turn into a terrible situation so enlist the help of your partner or someone close to you to help you determine where you are on your grief journey and don't be afraid to get help sooner rather than later.
I am a Pregnancy Loss Recovery Coach and I help women who are struggling after the loss of their baby heal and move forward so they can live a life full of possibility again, You can find out more about me and how I can help as well as schedule a complimentary support session by visiting my website at jennifersenn.com and download my free video series HERE.