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Postpartum Depression in Recovery: What You Need to Know

infographic on the signs of postpartum depression

Every day, women across the country wake up to find that they are pregnant despite an active addiction. The lucky ones who find out early enough to connect with prenatal care can often get help managing their addiction at the same time. The very lucky are able to access the support they need after giving birth when they are facing the challenges of addiction recovery while also facing the challenges of parenting a new baby.

Neither task is simple or easy. Both take an extreme physical as well as emotional toll, and both can be close to impossible to manage alone. Unfortunately, the result for new mothers in recovery can be postpartum depression, a diagnosable depressive disorder that can strike at any time in the first couple years of motherhood that can seemingly wipe out your ability to stay sober.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • You are not broken. If you find that you are feeling constantly anxious, lethargic and unable to function, completely over motherhood, or unable to bond with your baby or anyone else for that matter, there are all kinds of resources available to assist you, from medical care to books to support groups and more. You are in the same boat with up to 15 percent of new moms.
  • Drinking and drug use will worsen the problem. If you are scared of losing your kids to child services or worried that you will inadvertently harm your baby, you will move closer to turning those fears into a reality if you relapse.
  • Any sign of relapse must be addressed right away. Self-medicating any kind of depression through drinking and drug use is a common urge, so the first sign of cravings for drugs and alcohol must be immediately addressed in treatment.
  • Postpartum depression is not your fault. The disorder can strike any woman under any circumstances, and there is nothing you did to cause this.
  • You can make choices to improve your situation. You are not trapped. Both motherhood and addiction may be a lifetime proposition, but there are ways to make both easier and more fulfilling starting now. The choice to reach out for help is yours.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression can be defined by any combination of intense symptoms that may include intense and persistent anxiety or depression, thoughts of self-harm, feelings of despair or worthlessness, and more. When these feelings persist for more than 10 days in a row, it is time to reach out for medical care and treatment.

It is important to note that postpartum depression is different from “baby blues.” Many mothers experience a much lesser degree of depression or sadness after giving birth as their body repairs itself and deals with chronic sleep deprivation. But these feelings are often not overwhelming, nor do they significantly impair the ability to care for the child, and they are not characterized by thoughts of harm of any kind.

When Is It Time to Get Help?

There is never a wrong time to reach out and ask for help in recovery, especially if you have concerns about how best to handle staying sober while parenting. If you are dealing with any of the following issues or believe you have postpartum depression, it is important to discuss the issue directly with a substance abuse treatment specialist, therapist, or case worker who can connect you with specific support services. Call immediately if the following sounds like you:

  • You are about to relapse or have already relapsed, and you are not able to take care of your baby.
  • You have been avoiding caring for your baby, including feeding them or changing diapers.
  • You have thoughts of leaving your baby alone at home, in a car, or in another room away from you for any length of time.
  • You have thoughts of giving your child any kind of sedative substance in order to stop the crying.
  • You have hurt yourself or are considering suicide.
  • You have hurt the baby or are having urges to hurt the baby.

Are you having a hard time managing sobriety and parenthood? Is it time for you to learn more about what options are available to you in treatment?

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