At Sage Tree, we often hear from women who’ve struggled for years with undiagnosed postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety (known collectively as PMAD, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders). They are reaching out to finally get the support they deserve.
Sadly, along the way, some of them have been told that their symptoms “couldn’t be postpartum depression or anxiety,” just because their youngest child is now a toddler — or maybe even a teenager.
But here’s what we all need to know about postpartum depression and anxiety: Postpartum depression doesn’t just “run its course” and resolve on its own. Neither does postpartum anxiety.
They’re not like the common cold. They require attention and treatment.
What does this mean? Even if your children are school-age or beyond, you could still be dealing with postpartum depression or anxiety!
It’s actually controversial to say this.
Here’s why. The DSM-5, the enormous book of diagnostic guidelines that therapists rely on, has very specific criteria for defining postpartum depression and anxiety. And one of those criteria is “peripartum onset,” meaning that symptoms begin within 4 weeks after birth. But studies show that women can experience symptoms for more than a year, and many expert providers realize these symptoms can persist until they are treated, even if that’s years later.
In fact, most moms don’t call us within the first year, because they’re too busy treading water. Often it isn’t until kids get older and a tiny bit more self-sufficient that moms have time to catch their breath and realize, I do not need to be suffering like this. It doesn’t need to be this hard, for this long.
No matter how old your children are, there is help, you are not alone, and treatment works!
How do we treat it?
The gold standard of treatment for PMAD will take into account three facets. Not everyone needs all three, but all three should be considered and discussed: Therapy, self-care practices (like sleep and nutrition), and medication
At Sage Tree Therapy, we can of course address the therapy part of the equation. We help you to identify your thoughts, emotions, and how your body is feeling — so that you can start feeling more like yourself again.
We can also help you think about the ways you’re caring for yourself day in and day out. Are you forgetting to eat, or do you feel like you could eat an elephant? Are you having a hard time getting out of bed, or do you forget the last time you slept more than an hour or two in a row? Does your life include space for downtime and for fun? We’ll help you figure out whether there are other self-care components that will build a stronger foundation for your well-being.
Your OB, GP, or a psychiatrist can help you evaluate whether medication is right for you.
There are real risks to “Waiting it out.”
The term “postpartum” can make it sound like this depression or anxiety is only related to the time immediately after birth. Friends or family might assure you that it will get easier as your child gets older.
But with PMAD, symptoms unfortunately can get worse, not better, with time. In rare cases they can progress to postpartum psychosis, an especially dangerous condition. More often, moms with PMAD simply find themselves miserable.
These conditions can affect your relationships with your kids and loved ones, and can squash your interest in work or other passions. They can also create serious physical issues, like panic attacks, weight gain, weight loss, or other signs of severe stress. PMAD can make you feel overwhelmed, irritable, weepy, rageful and resentful. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
Help is here for you.
If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms like these, no matter how old your children are, it’s time to reach out for help.
To get started, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 314.485.SAGE. We can respond to any questions and get you scheduled for an assessment appointment, which allows us to match you with one of our expert therapists.
Postpartum depression and anxiety don’t go away on their own, but with expert treatment they can!