Postpartum depression and anxiety are topics that are being brought up more and more in the mom community, and I’m so glad for it. Even though it still needs to be discussed, most women know before having a baby that they may experience depression and may know the signs and symptoms present to get the help they need. However, what about when you don’t experience postpartum depression and anxiety until 1 year after baby is born? That is my story. I started the postpartum period right after birth feeling pretty happy and “blissed out.” Sure, I cried, was extremely tired, and had some anxiety, but overall I was really happy and did not experience any signs of depression. I figured I was lucky and all in the clear! I exclusively breastfed my baby for a while, but when he turned 9 months old, he started loving solid food and not caring so much for the boob. This was honestly fine by me- I wanted to wean by a year and had no desire to go further in our journey. My milk supply dropped, and the next week I noticed a BIG change. I entered into a couple weeks of a depression that was very dark and unexpected. When we fully weaned about 2 months later, I was at a really low point. I noticed a huge drop in my motivation, excitement, and overall desire to do anything I previously like or enjoyed. I started getting really tired and sleeping a lot more. I got overwhelmed and anxious easily. Worst of all, I started to have thoughts like “I can’t believe this is my life,” “I don’t want to do this anymore,” and “I hate how my life is now.” I didn’t want to get up in the morning.
After experiencing some scary low days, I went to my doctor. After lots of questions, tests, and even a blood test to rule out any thyroid or hormonal issues, he diagnosed me with moderate-severe postpartum depression brought on by a drop in oxytocin from weaning. I was over a year postpartum.
Here’s the deal- I know about postpartum depression, I know how to “prepare” for it before baby and getting the support you need…but I didn’t know about postpartum depression over a year down the road, when you’ve already established rhythms and schedules and “should” have this mom thing down. Did you know some women can actually develop PPD and PPA not right after birth, but after they wean? Depending on the woman, oxytocin levels may stay elevated from breastfeeding and not drop until breastfeeding is over, meaning that hormonal shift a lot of women experience after the baby is born doesn’t happen until much later. It can be confusing for a woman who had developed a rhythm and new life as a mom to experience the sudden anxiety and drop in mood. Postpartum is forever- it is not just the 3-6 months after you have a baby. Once you have a baby, it affects your body, mood, emotions forever. It is normal and okay to have “delayed” postpartum mood disorders, and you still deserve to get the help you need, no matter how far out from having a baby you are. For more information and resources, make sure to check out www.postpartum.net.