Many people assume that having a baby is the happiest point in a woman's life. And for some women, this is absolutely true!
However, for people struggling with postpartum depression, this is not always the case. While standard baby blues are fairly common, research shows that anywhere from 10-20 percent of new mothers struggle with depression after birth.
For mothers with histories of substance use, this depression can be even more debilitating and dangerous. Someone in recovery may find themselves experiencing intensified cravings to drink alcohol or use drugs. Being aware of this risk—and being mindful of treatment options—is imperative during this vulnerable time.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
As mentioned, many women experience the classic baby blues after delivering a child. After all, your entire life is changing. You're sleep-deprived, anxious, and concerned about the well-being of your new bundle of joy. However, these symptoms tend to subside within a few days or weeks. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, includes warning signs like:
- Chronic feelings of sadness
- Feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness
- Intense fear of hurting yourself or your baby
- Being overly concerned (or not concerned at all) about your baby
- Impaired focus and concentration
- Poor and erratic eating habits
- Limited interest in previously enjoyed relationships or activities
Women with preexisting depression may be more prone to developing postpartum symptoms. However, some women develop postpartum depression without any previous mental health problems.
You may not know if you have postpartum depression. Make sure to check in with loved ones regularly. Ask them if they have noticed any concerning changes or mood swings. Encourage them to be honest and forthcoming with you.
Special Considerations For Addicted Populations
Addiction is a complicated issue, and both pregnancy and the birth of a child can jeopardize one's recovery process. If a woman also struggles with co-occurring conditions, like postpartum depression, she may be even more susceptible to triggering situations and environments.
If you're struggling in your recovery, it is imperative to reach out for help. Support can be multifaceted, but it may include utilizing resources like:
- Individual psychotherapy
- Involvement in support groups
- Medication management
- Holistic recovery (nutrition, fitness, meditation)
- Spiritual involvement
Some mothers fear that reaching out for support could result in losing parental rights over their children. There may be some truth to this fear. If drug use is involved in a household with children, the courts may get involved to ensure the children's safety. This risk may be even more prominent if you have prior legal issues.
This is why preventative care is so essential. By mitigating a relapse before it happens, you can integrate new tools and resources to regain a sense of balance.
Furthermore, asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Children need loving and attentive caretakers. If you are not able to provide that security, you risk creating complications for both yourself and your baby.
There's no doubt that parenting is a difficult feat. Parenting while struggling with a past or active addiction, however, can bring a whole new challenge to the table.
As a new mother, you owe it to yourself and your baby to protect your recovery. If you are struggling, reach out for help. If you feel like you're recovery is in jeopardy, it's time to take action immediately.