Pregnancy can trigger various emotions. Hormones can really affect an expecting mother’s emotional state, but we need to talk about something that can happen after the baby is born: postpartum depression.
According to the CDC, 1 in 9 new mothers can show symptoms of postpartum depression. The study shows that it’s a fairly common occurrence, particularly in younger mothers, but other studies also show that 1 in 5 women refuse to speak about their postpartum depression, and therefore their symptoms remain untreated.
This affliction can be successfully treated, but it doesn’t go away on its own. Many women fear the stigma postpartum depression brings, and choose to hide the symptoms. If you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of depression after giving birth, even a few months after, it’s vital to call for help immediately. This article will present everything you need to know about this condition, how to spot it, and what treatments are available.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD), or postnatal depression, is a mood disorder associated with childbirth. Though it is most likely to show symptoms in mothers, men can also experience this condition.
It is unclear what exactly triggers the symptoms of PPD, though many believe it develops due to a combination of physical and emotional changes that occur once a baby is born.
To make matters worse, many can confuse PPD with the more common “baby blues,” a term used to describe the feelings of worry, sadness, or even exhaustion that women can experience a few days after giving birth. Baby blues often disappear on their own, while PPD symptoms require treatment.
What are the Symptoms?
Postnatal depression can affect people differently, but the symptoms can generally include:
- Lack of interest in activities that usually brought the person pleasure;
- Drastically different eating habits;
- Anxiety or panic attacks;
- Feelings of guilt;
- Mood swings, agitation;
- Extreme sadness and uncontrollable crying;
- Irrational fear of not being a good parent;
- Fear of being left with the baby unsupervised;
- Insomnia, or even oversleeping;
- Lack of interest in the baby;
- Thoughts of self-harm, or even of harming the baby.
The actual cause of PPD remains a mystery in the medical community, but there is some evidence that drastic hormonal change has a key role to play. However, fathers, who don’t go through these hormonal changes, can still experience symptoms of PPD, so the trigger may be different for males than it is for females.
However, even if we don’t know the causes yet, there are some risk factors the medical community agrees can make a person likely to experience these symptoms:
- Prenatal anxiety or depression;
- Family history of depression or mental disorders;
- Stressful events occurred during pregnancy;
- Traumas experienced during birth;
- Previous miscarriages;
- Low support;
- Unwanted pregnancy.
These factors don’t necessarily warrant PPD symptoms. However, they can increase the risk of developing it.
When to See a Doctor
It’s important not to ignore these symptoms, or dismiss them as the baby blues. If they persist for longer than a couple of weeks, and also appear to get worse, make a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.
The doctor can provide a diagnosis, and recommend the best course of treatment. Remember, PPD is treatable, and you can start feeling better within a few weeks after beginning treatment, but it’s vital you don’t dismiss symptoms, to begin with.
Expect to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and general mental state after the baby’s been born during the doctor’s appointment. That will help them tell the difference between baby blues or a more serious issue. It’s vital to be completely honest with your doctor during the evaluation to get the correct diagnosis.
At this time, the doctor can also:
- Do a depression screening which may also involve filling out a questionnaire;
- Order blood tests;
- Perform other tests to rule out other possible causes for the symptoms.
The treatment period and the course of action for PPD can vary depending on your medical history, as well as the severity of the symptoms you have.
You can treat postnatal depression through psychotherapy and medication. The doctor may order a combination of the two treatments in some cases:
- Psychotherapy: appointments with a psychiatrist or other mental health professionals to discuss concerns, and issues that may have triggered the PPD. These sessions can help you cope with your feelings and overcome your symptoms. In some cases, family members may also be asked to participate in these sessions.
- Medication: doctors may recommend antidepressants to treat PPD. A major concern here is whether these medications are safe for mothers who are breastfeeding. Be sure to talk to your doctor about these concerns.
PPD symptoms can improve considerably with the right treatment. However, if you interrupt the treatment too soon, it may lead to a relapse, so be sure to follow your doctor’s recommendations strictly.
Apart from medication and therapy, people experiencing PPD can also make some lifestyle changes to improve their mood and help their condition.
However, it’s important to note that although these methods can improve your general mental state, you should not use them instead of professional medical treatment.
Here’s what you can do:
- Be more physically active by introducing daily exercises in your daily routine;
- Go for a healthier and more nutritious diet;
- Take it slow and do not apply any pressures on yourself to get better quickly;
- Take some time each day to cater to your needs. It’s important at this time to maintain a healthy and active life, so don’t feel guilty to go to the movies without your baby;
- Avoid being alone. At this time, it’s best always to be surrounded either by family or friends to help you through your recovery.
The road to recovery takes some time, so remember to be patient with yourself. With the right treatment, you will get better.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing PPD symptoms, contact us now.