Is This Thought Normal or is it Postpartum Depression? The Top 5 Scary Thoughts After Birth

Friday, January 23, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under Postpartum Depression

In the past I have written extensively about postpartum depression, from the evolutionary drives to abandon when stressed, to the importance of support, to the influence of hormones to the difference between PPD and postpartum psychosis (Check out the posts linked at the bottom of this article). But even with a symptom checklist, many don’t recognize the symptoms for what they are. Part of the reason for this is that the thoughts that accompany PPD may resemble normal thought patterns in new moms. So, I decided to create a different kind of checklist to help you differentiate between normal worries and signs of postpartum depression.  

Is This Thought Normal or Postpartum Depression?

  • “I am almost too tired to feel.” You and me both, sister. And that’s normal. We all get a little foggy with all the hormonal fluctuations, new infant sleeping schedules and healing from birth. 

But this thought is different from: “I’m numb and don’t feel anything at all,” which might indicate postpartum depression.

  • “I just want to hole up and bond with my new baby.” Good for you! Most new mommies have a period where they really wish everyone would go the fuck away. We need time for quiet, to snuggle, to nurse, to attach. This gets harder with subsequent children where those new mommy days are closer to a sleepy free-for-all of making snacks and watching Wild Krats, but those are the breaks. 

However, the thought of wanting privacy and time to bond is different from: “I don’t want to talk to anyone. Ever.” Not only does  isolation trigger PPD symptoms, but the drive to isolate yourself from those you love can be a sign that you might have PPD in the first place. 

  • “I might be bad at this. It’s all so…overwhelming.” Yeah, we’ve all been there. But these thoughts are normal. 

They are different from: “I can’t do this. I should give this kid to someone else who will take better care of him.”

Hold up, girl. You might have PPD. While we all have fears of inadequacy, the former thoughts drive us to work harder and attach more securely. Ones that push us away from our children might indicate postpartum depression. 

  • “What would happen if he fell from the crib? Oh, dear god, please don’t let him fall!” New mommy fears are totally normal. We worry about everything, and by “everything” I mean just that. Will he suffocate in his sleep? Will he fall from his crib? Will the dog bite him? Might someone steal him in the middle of the night? All normal worries, particularly because these thoughts should bother us. We want to keep our little ones safe and our brain is pretty certain this requires obsessing over every little detail that might be dangerous. If it worked for our ancestors, obviously it might work for us, right? Might as well keep it up.

But all this worrying about harm is different from: 

“What would happen if I hung him from the window Michael Jackson style and dropped him? Sometimes I really want to hurt him.” Thinking about harming your child is a good indicator of PPD. While you are unlikely to act on those thoughts (particularly if they cause anxiety) you should seek assistance for a possible postpartum depression diagnosis. 

  • “What if something happens to me? What will happen to my baby?” Again, normal fear. If it becomes pervasive or triggers panic attacks, it can indicate a bigger issue, but for most, loving a new little person makes us ponder our mortality and worry about keeping them safe in our absence. 

But considering drawing up a will is different from: “I want to die.” This one is always a red flag. ALWAYS. Pick up the phone and seek help now. Not later after the kid is fed, not after dinner. Right the fuck now. Because even though those with PPD are highly unlikely to actually harm themselves or anyone else (more here), suffering from these thoughts can indicate a postpartum depression diagnosis.  

Seeking assistance for intrusive or scary thoughts can be a game changer for women with postpartum depression. Help reduces symptoms and those voices inside your head. You’re not crazy. You just might have PPD. And you don’t have to suffer in silence. 

Related Posts: 

Topic-Relevant Resources

This Isn't What I Expected [2nd edition]: Overcoming Postpartum Depression
A great guide on combatting postpartum depression. You're not alone.

The Mother-to-Mother Postpartum Depression Support Book
A book on postpartum depression written by mothers, for mothers.

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for living with Postpartum Depression
A concise, practical guide full of useful information for the loved ones of those suffering with PPD