When Post-Partum Depression Turns into Addiction

By Published On: January 8th, 2019Categories: Family, Mental Health

Welcoming a new baby into the world is magical, but as many new mothers know, it can also be scary. At least 20 percent of new moms in America experience post-partum depression, making it critical that amidst all the efforts of caring for an infant, mothers and their loved ones are also paying attention to their mental health.

What is post-partum depression?

Post-partum depression (PPD) is a subset of depression that affects mothers usually between two weeks to a year after giving birth. Many symptoms are similar to regular depression, including severe mood swings, avoiding loved ones, anxiety, loss of appetite, and crying spells. PPD also introduces feelings of doubt in their ability to provide adequate care for their child, and mothers with PPD may have trouble bonding, and thoughts of self-harm and harming the baby.

Overall, PPD can make it difficult for mothers to effectively care for themselves and their babies. Paired with the newfound responsibilities and expectations of motherhood, many women end up self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

The link between PPD and addiction

According to SAMHSA, as many as 15 percent of women with PPD engage in binge drinking within a year of giving birth. Nine percent within that group also admitted to using drugs.

It may be easy to overlook moms who binge drink as “wine mom” culture continues to dominate social media. Not only are moms frequently admitting to drinking a bottle by themselves in one sitting, but many companies tout t-shirts, wine glasses, bumper stickers and more that celebrate wine mom culture. The wine mom has become normalized and ingrained in our culture and on social media, so where do we draw the line?

As a result, many have viewed wine as a “softer” alternative for hard liquors, which creates an illusion that minimizes alcoholism. Vodka mom doesn’t have the same effect, for example.

The effects on babies and older kids

Mothers who binge drink as a result of PPD also put their babies at risk, particularly those who are breastfeeding. Alcohol can pass from mother to child and studies have shown that this can stunt a baby’s growth.

Mothers with PPD who use drugs pass on side effects to their babies as well. For amphetamine takers, babies suffer from trouble sleeping and irritability. For those on cocaine, babies struggle with seizures, irritability, diarrhea, and vomiting. Heroin causes tremors, vomiting, restlessness, and trouble eating.

For older children, witnessing their parents binge drink becomes a normal expectation for them. It blurs the line between responsible drinking for adults and alcoholism. Down the line, they may be more likely to make bad choices when they start using alcohol.

Motherhood and PPD are tough, but there are resources out there to help moms cope with their new lives and overcome PPD. You’re not alone, and chances are, if you reach out to someone, they will help you get the help you need.

Related Resources:

Co-Occurring Disorders: What Does the Term Actually Mean?

If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, call the New England Recovery Center at (844) 500-6372 and we can help you on the path to long-term recovery.

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