Becoming a new parent can be an exciting and joyful experience, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. For some mothers, these emotions can sometimes evolve into postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of depression that affects women following childbirth. Not to be confused with the so-called “baby blues” – which are mild mood disturbances that many mothers experience during the first few days and up to two weeks after delivery, PPD is typically more severe and can last for several months.
It’s estimated that 1 in 7 women will develop postpartum depression after giving birth. Without professional treatment, PDD can develop into clinical depression and become a chronic illness.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
As with any form of depression, signs and symptoms of postpartum depression can vary from mother to mother. Common signs of PPD include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
- A negative outlook on life
- Low self-esteem and self-image
- Moodiness and irritability
- Recurrent crying spells
- Challenges sleeping or sleeping too much
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling anxious and overwhelmed
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Struggling to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
When is the Onset of Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression can start any time during the first year after giving birth, but it typically manifests within the first three or four weeks after delivery.
In some cases, it can also develop during pregnancy (perinatal depression), although this is less common.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
While the exact cause of PPD is unknown, several factors can contribute to its development. These include:
Hormonal changes: After giving birth, a woman’s hormone levels drop significantly, which can trigger postpartum depression.
Lack of support: A lack of emotional or practical support from partners, family, and friends both during pregnancy and after delivery can increase the risk of developing postpartum depression.
Personal or family history of depression: Women with a history of depression or a family history of depression are more likely to develop postpartum depression.
Stressful life events: Stressful events, such as financial difficulties or relationship problems, can contribute to the development of postpartum depression.
Complications during pregnancy or delivery: Women who experience complications during pregnancy or delivery, such as premature birth or a hard delivery, are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
Getting Help for Postpartum Depression
If you are experiencing symptoms of PPD, it is important to seek help from a healthcare professional. PPD is a treatable condition, and with the right support and treatment, most women can recover.
Treatment options for PPD include:
- Therapy: Talk therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you develop coping strategies and work through your feelings.
- Medication: Antidepressant medication can be effective in treating PPD. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of medication with your healthcare provider.
- Support groups: Joining a support group for new parents can provide you with emotional support and help you feel less alone.
- Lifestyle changes: Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and practicing relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, can help improve your mood.
It is also important to prioritize self-care and take time off baby duties to rest up and do the things you enjoy. Having a strong support system can also help manage postpartum depression. Last but not least, if you’re feeling overwhelmed taking care of the baby and managing other aspects of your life, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or enlist the help of a babysitter or postpartum doula.
Postpartum depression is a serious and potentially debilitating mood disorder that affects new mothers. But despite being scary and overwhelming, with the proper treatment, support, and self-care – it is possible for persons with postpartum depression to make a full recovery and go back to enjoying life with their new baby.
If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to seek professional help – early intervention can significantly improve the chances of quick recovery.