Q&A: Postpartum Depression

In a world where talking about “baby blues” and even Postpartum Depression is seen as taboo, we are opening up the conversation. Here in Nashville, we have an amazing resource for moms who may be experiencing some postpartum hardships: Emily Pardy at Ready Nest Counseling. We interviewed Emily to get some insight on how couples can prepare for the postpartum season and how she can support couples through this time.

Tell us a little bit about you.
My name is Emily Pardy. I’m a wife, mother, author, counselor, and founder of Ready Nest Counseling. I love to hear stories, tell stories, and inspire others to do the same. I enjoy coffee, Netflix, and love baking from scratch when I get the chance!

What services does Ready Nest Counseling Provide?
Ready Nest Counseling offers marriage and family therapy that helps couples transition into parenthood through the life stages of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, or infertility. Ready Nest Counseling focuses on the relational, mental, and emotional wellness, addressing specific challenges that a couple faces during these milestones.

When would you suggest couples reach out for counseling on pregnancy and parenting?
Everyone knows a baby will change everything. But, rarely do couples sit down and actually talk about their expectations, fears, or hopes about how parenthood will affect their world. I would encourage couples to be as proactive as possible, reaching out as soon as they want to begin the conversation about starting a family. Therapy is often considered the “last resort” for many couples, and too many times they get help when they face problems and challenges they don’t know how to handle. By preventatively getting therapy as part of their family planning process, they can truly enjoy this phase of their relationship by deepening their commitment, understanding, and trust before it ever gets tested.

Once a couple is pregnant, it’s normal for new fears and anxieties to set in. The mother and father are already adapting to the idea of their new roles as parents, yet they don’t have the relational and emotional tools necessary to help them effectively support one another through this transition. Ready Nest Counseling can help assess couples’ backgrounds and expectations, then give them the communication skills they require to help them engage in this process and enjoy it to its fullest.

What conversations are important for parents to have prenatally?
There are many bases to cover when it comes to preparing for a new baby. Sometimes these conversations are fun and lighthearted, like deciding on a baby name and picking out colors for the nursery! Other times, family dynamics create challenges that a couple has never faced before, such as determining how long the relatives will visit or which household chores each of them should perform. Reviewing each other’s history is incredibly helpful to know how both partners were “parented” and what their view of their own upbringing has been, as well as their perception of how their partner was raised. Everyone has deep feelings and opinions about how they were brought up, some positive and some negative, and it’s important to share these feelings and get on the same page as your partner in order to move forward in your own family with a united goal for your own baby.

Ready Nest Counseling offers couples an exclusive assessment that examines various factors of each couple’s own upbringing, and gives them a better understanding of how it will affect their own parenting style. Couples can then learn how to integrate their viewpoints into a parenting plan that helps their family thrive.

What are ways that couples can help prepare for the postpartum season to help minimize baby blues?
As cliché as it sounds, knowledge is power. Couples tend to avoid information about baby blues and postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders because they either believe it will never happen to them, or they are too scared to admit it might. Unfortunately, not knowing about the baby blues and postpartum ends up being far more frightening than developing a plan ahead of time so they know what to do in case they need to take steps towards getting help. Talking to their doctor or healthcare provider about any history of mental illness is essential. Asking friends about their raw, real experiences after childbirth can also be empowering. Finally, learning simple communication skills about how to navigate difficult conversations can truly offer preventative help for couples preparing for birth. Also, it’s important to note that several cases of postpartum depression and anxiety actually start during pregnancy; so, it’s never too early for a couple to learn more!

What are some helpful ways a mom can process her birth?
I have a motto for moms that “Every birth has worth.” Whether a new mom just experienced a birth that didn’t go according to her birth plan, or a couple endured a traumatic birth, it’s important to know that every story matters. Many moms can come out of the birth feeling like it happened to her, instead of actually engaging in the experience herself. This can manifest as grief, loss, depression, anxiety, and many other emotions that she didn’t anticipate. Support is incredibly important during this time, so that’s why Ready Nest Counseling encourages dads to participate in the therapy process even if it feels like “just mom needs help”. New mothers need to feel validated in their perception of what happened, then they can begin to process the events separate from the meaning. With help, new moms can rewrite their own birth stories, gaining perspective and gratitude that can help them heal from an experience that should have brought them joy from the beginning.

What’s the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?
Many people don’t know the difference between “baby blues” and real postpartum depression. In fact, it is unfortunately common for healthcare providers to use the terms interchangeably, leading many new parents to fear their own experiences when quite possibly their emotions are entirely normal. Nearly every new mother (up to 80%) experiences some kind of “baby blues” within the first two weeks following birth. This can consist of sadness, crying and sobbing uncontrollably at times, irritability and mood swings, overly worrying about the baby, and having difficulty sleeping. While these adjustments can be difficult for the whole family to endure, the mother should be able to cope with proper support, and her feelings should level out within two or three weeks as everyone adapts to the new family dynamic and sleeping/feeding schedule. The fog of baby blues lifts as the new mother’s hormones balance out and her milk supply regulates. If, after a few weeks, she doesn’t feel like herself or the new father (or other close support) is noticing “she just doesn’t seem like herself” then it is quite possibly something more.
Postpartum depression (or anxiety, or other perinatal mood disorder) can show symptoms even when the mother is still pregnant and anytime within the first year after giving birth. Many people don’t realize that a new mom can experience a dramatic shift in emotions as late as 9-12 months after bringing her new baby home, so it’s important to understand that she is still within a timeframe of healing and adjustment long after the healthcare provider has given her the green light to resume normal daily life.

If the new mother has felt something isn’t right, or someone who is close to her suspects she is acting differently beyond the window of “baby blues”, it’s time to ask for help. Other warning signs for postpartum mood disorders include:
• Changes in eating habits (too much or too little)
• Changes in sleeping habits (too much or too little and not only resulting from baby care)
• Racing or intrusive thoughts that won’t stop
• Overly sad or anxious
• Feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
• Thoughts that the baby/family is better off without you
• Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
• Thoughts of harming oneself or baby
• Compulsively cleaning, counting, or checking things
• Isolation or desire for isolation
• Extreme need for constant help or inability to be alone
• Lack of desire to hold or interact with baby

How common is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects 15-20% of new mothers within the first year after childbirth. That’s nearly 1 in every 5 new mom out there! What’s more, new dads can also experience paternal postnatal depression (PPND), and if the mother is already diagnosed with PPD then they are twice as likely to have depression as well.

The good news is, that both PPD and PPND are entirely treatable, but it’s important to get help as early as possible. Postpartum depression is no one’s fault. It is temporary and treatable, but only with proper diagnosis and care. Sometimes medication or alternative medicine will help the new parent to cope, and therapy is always recommended to help the family learn the right skills to communicate, heal, and work together towards healthy habits that will help the family thrive. As the mom heals, so does the dad. The best indicator of dad’s mental wellness is the new mom’s mental and emotional wellness, so it’s vital that the entire system gets treatment to ensure the whole family benefits.

What are some warning signs that the partner can look out for?
If you suspect your partner might have postpartum depression, don’t wait to get help. There are many warning signs that can be red flags for PPD, but the number one sign is simply “not acting like normal”. Partners understand this best since they are usually around one another the most prior to birth and right after bringing the baby home. Many times, after a new mother has been diagnosed with PPD, the father will sigh with relief stating “I didn’t think that seemed normal, but I thought it was just from being tired or adjusting to the new baby.” If you’ve felt this way for more than two weeks, ask your partner about their behavior, and encourage them to get help.

Other warning signs for postpartum mood disorders include:
• Changes in eating habits (too much or too little)
• Changes in sleeping habits (too much or too little and not only resulting from baby care)
• Racing or intrusive thoughts that won’t stop
• Overly sad or anxious
• Feelings of guilt, shame, or hopelessness
• Thoughts that the baby/family is better off without you
• Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
• Thoughts of harming oneself or baby
• Compulsively cleaning, counting, or checking things
• Isolation or desire for isolation
• Extreme need for constant help or inability to be alone
• Lack of desire to hold or interact with baby

For new dad’s, however, signs of PPND may appear differently. Men tend to mask their depressive symptoms, functioning well while hiding deep feelings of shame and anxiety. A new father might display symptoms PPND through anger, uncontrollable rage, deep feelings of insecurity, substance abuse or other inappropriate temptations, or withdrawal. New dads are the primary source of support for the new mom and baby, so it’s important to make sure he is getting proper support as well through this tender season of life.

Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for more information about postpartum depression and mood disorders to gain better understanding of your partner’s condition. Contact Ready Nest Counseling to empower your relationship through this challenge. New parents need to know they are not alone, and their relationship can come through this with deeper commitment and understanding. This season may feel overwhelming right now, but it is not futile. Parents can bring purpose to their story through healing and connection and can be able to enjoy this beautiful phase of life and all it has to offer.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *