Postpartum Depression. What Is It? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment Postpartum Depression. What Is It? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment
Depression is something more than sadness and bad mood for a couple of days. It is a serious disease. While you are depressed, sadness, anxiety, the feeling of inner emptiness and worthlessness don’t go away and interfere with your usual way of living. These feelings can be expressive and slightly noticeable as well. Depression is common during and after pregnancy. About 13% of pregnant women suffer from depression. Depression from which women suffer after childbirth is called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (or PPD) is a combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that occur in a woman after the birth of a baby.
It is always stressful to have a baby, especially the first one. It doesn’t matter that you were happy and couldn’t wait to see her or him while being pregnant or that you love your baby very much. The baby blues are normal, but if symptoms persist for more than a few weeks, it may lead to postpartum depression. This type of depression can influence on your ability to take care of your baby, thus, it is necessary to get rid of it as soon as possible. With treatment and support, you are able to beat this disease and enjoy motherhood.
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression
Some normal changes during and after pregnancy can cause symptoms, they are similar to depression. Almost all young mothers experience anxiety and become more sensitive. Young women believe that they won’t handle new parental duties. Somnolence may appear.
- Sadness, hopelessness, bad mood;
- Lack of motivation (no desire to do anything);
- Increased or decreased appetite;
- Hypersomnia or insomnia;
- Problems with concentration and decision making;
- Bad memory;
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt;
- Loss of interest and pleasure;
- Stomach upset.
If you have some of these postpartum depression symptoms that persist more than 2 weeks, you should see your doctor. He will help to find out whether these symptoms are caused by depression.
Read more about Depression during Pregnancy
What Causes Postpartum Depression
Depression is the result of the combination of different factors and considered a mental disease.
Any stressful event in any human’s life, such as the death of a close one, care about a senior or disabled family member, alcohol abuse, poverty, can lead to depression.
Hormonal changes are unique and may cause the development of depression in some women. It is known that hormones influence on the brain chemistry which controls emotions and mood. Scientists have proved that women are more susceptible to Depression during a certain period of time, particularly puberty, during and after pregnancy, menopause.
When you are pregnant, estrogen and progesterone hormonal levels are increased. During the first 24 hours after childbirth, women experience a big drop in hormones. Abrupt hormonal changes may trigger depression.
Giving birth brings numerous physical and emotional changes. You may be dealing with physical pain from the delivery or the difficulty of losing the baby weight, leaving you insecure about your physical and sexual attractiveness.
Other factors exist that causing the development of postpartum depression:
- Postpartum fatigue;
- Lack of sleep;
- Doubt about the ability to be a good mother;
- Stress because of changes in household duties and roles in the family;
- The desire to be a perfect mother;
- Lack of spare time;
- Changes in the relationship with your husband after giving birth.
Risk factors for postpartum depression
Some women are more likely than others to develop postpartum depression. The following factors put you at a high risk:
- Previous history of depression;
- Previous history of depression in family members;
- Lack of support from family or friends;
- Anxiety or negative perception of the pregnancy;
- Problems with previous pregnancy or childbirth;
- Financial problems;
- Stressful events;
- Alcohol or drug abuse;
- Relationship difficulties.
Women, who are depressed during pregnancy, are at an increased risk to develop depression after giving birth.
The difference between the baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis
Many women experience the baby blues.
Signs and symptoms of the baby blues are:
- Mood swings;
- Sadness, anxiety, or fatigue;
- Loss of appetite;
- Sleeping problems.
They usually go away after a couple of days or weeks. The symptoms mentioned above are not severe and don’t require treatment.
The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more serious. It may start within the first year of your baby’s birth. If you have postpartum depression, you may experience any symptom mentioned above.
- Negative feelings towards your baby;
- Worrying about hurting your baby;
- Lack of interest in your baby;
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
Postpartum depression is not common. It occurs during the first two weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include:
- Hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t real or hearing voices);
- Irrationality in speech patterns;
- Rapid mood swings;
- Thoughts of harming or killing your baby;
- Delusions (paranoid and irrational beliefs);
- Extreme agitation and anxiety;
- Confusion and disorientation;
- Bizarre behavior;
- Inability or refusal to eat or sleep.
Coping with postpartum depression
Seek a professional help if:
- the baby blues don’t go away after two weeks;
- the symptoms of depression get worse;
- symptoms of depression show up at any time after childbirth, even after several months;
- household chores seem to be unreal;
- you can’t take care of yourself or your baby;
- you think about harming yourself or your baby.
Your doctor will ask questions in order to find the presence of depressive episodes. If necessary, you will be sent to hospital where depression is treated.
Some women do not tell about their problems. They feel awkward, ashamed, or guilty about being depressed when they are supposed to be happy. Such women are terrified that they are considered bad mothers.
Any woman may be depressed during pregnancy or after childbirth. It doesn’t mean that you are a bad mother. You and your child mustn’t suffer. Seek a professional help!
Here are some helpful tips:
- Have a rest. Take a nap while your child sleeps;
- Do not try to do many things and do not strive to be ideal and perfect;
- Ask your partner, family members or friends for a help;
- Find some time to go out, to see your friends or spend time with your partner;
- Discuss your feelings with your partner, family, and friends;
- Speak with other mothers, they can share their experience with you;
- Do not make any major changes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Such changes may cause unnecessary stress.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Two common methods of treatment exist.
Therapy. It includes talking with a therapist, psychologist, social worker.
Medication. Your doctor can prescribe antidepressants. Meds can help ease symptoms of depression.
These methods can be used separately or in combination. Complex and proper treatment is important for you and your baby. Speak with your doctor about advantages and disadvantages of taking antidepressants if you breastfeed.
Consequences of untreated postpartum depression
Untreated depression can harm you and your baby. Some depressed women aren’t able to take of yourself and their babies:
- Nutrition suffers;
- Children do not gain a sufficient amount of weight;
- Sleeping problems;
- Depressed women do not go to antenatal clinic, this fact increases the risk to develop various diseases;
- Do not follow medical instructions;
- Use harmful substances such as tobacco, alcohol or drugs in order to relieve tension and stress;
- Depressed mothers are not able to meet the needs of their children.
As a result, you may feel guilty and lose confidence. These feelings can make depression worse.
Researches have shown that postpartum depression can have a great impact on the baby. Depression of the mother can result in child’s impairments in normal development and growth, behavioral problems as well.
Every child deserves to have a healthy mother and every mother deserves to enjoy life and motherhood. If you are depressed during pregnancy or after giving birth, do not suffer alone. You should tell your loved one and see the doctor at once.
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By Maria Shevtsova
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist. Taking action in support groups organization and social adaptation of the people with mental disorders. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the undepress.net project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who want to get their life back or help someone dear, who got into mental trap.
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