Pregnancy and childbirth bring many changes and challenges to parents, especially mothers. Some hurdles may even come as a surprise since only a minor percentage of new moms and dads encounter them.
One example is postpartum depression, which you’ve probably already heard of. But what exactly is it? Keep reading to find out as this article will discuss the signs and symptoms of the condition as well as tips on how you or your partner can recover from it.
What Is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Caring for a newborn baby can be stressful. With a huge responsibility on your plate, you’ll likely be sleep-deprived. You might also have little to no extra time for yourself.
It’s common for women to have mood swings after birth. They can be extremely happy one moment and then cry soon after. They may find it difficult to concentrate, and some may feel depressed. Others lose their appetite and have trouble sleeping.
Such experiences are perfectly normal. However, if for an extended period after giving birth the sadness, anxiety, restlessness, and loneliness remain, it’s possible that what you’re going through is postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental health condition affecting mostly women who’ve just delivered a baby. Although it typically occurs within six months of childbirth, it may even begin earlier during pregnancy. The condition doesn’t indicate weakness; rather, it’s a complication due to childbirth.
Postpartum Depression Facts: Baby Blues
When you have the baby blues, it means you have mild depression, feelings of sadness, and mood swings. Postpartum mood swings are common because of hormones. It’s typical to have the baby blues during the first few weeks after giving birth. About 70%-80% of first-time mothers go through it. It can go away anywhere from 10 to 14 days after the delivery.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Many people confuse the baby blues with postpartum depression because their symptoms are the same. However, the ones for the latter are more severe and last longer. They may interfere with how you care for your newborn as well as your ability to do household chores and other simple tasks.
Here are the common symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Often feeling sad and restless
- Frequently crying or becoming teary-eyed
- Irritability and anxiousness
- Showing little interest in and affection for your baby
- Feeling unattached to your baby
- Loss of interest in life
- Withdrawing from your partner, family, and friends
- Loss of or increase in appetite
- Feeling fatigued and unmotivated to do things
- Having a hard time sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
- Possible weight gain or weight loss
- May have panic attacks
- Having suicidal thoughts or thinking about death
Postpartum depression doesn’t affect all pregnant women. Still, there’s always a possibility that you or an expecting mother you know will experience it, so it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about it.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
The reasons that some women experience postpartum depression are still unknown. But there are several related risk factors that could contribute to the condition.
One possible cause of postpartum depression is the changes in hormone levels postpartum. That occurrence then leads to an alteration of chemicals in the brain. This change is what may cause depression.
It’s also possible for postpartum depression to be caused by genetics. If you have a family history of depression, you’re more likely to develop it at some point in your life. The risk factors for developing postpartum depression are the following:
- You’ve experienced postpartum depression before.
- History of other mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- You’ve experienced depression unrelated to pregnancy.
- You have a mental illness like bipolar disorder or similar conditions.
- You’ve had multiple births (for example, twin or triplets).
- Your baby is born prematurely, has health problems, or has congenital physical defects.
- Drinking alcohol, taking harmful drugs, or smoking
- Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- You’re struggling to breastfeed your child.
- You have a stressful marriage or relationship.
- Limited access to family or friends to interact with
- Financial problems
- Teenage pregnancy or unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Sexual or physical abuse (domestic violence included)
- Insecurity due to weight gain
- Stressful experiences during pregnancy and childbirth, severe illness while pregnant, complicated delivery, or body pain after delivery
Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition that women may have after birth. This is a highly severe type of sickness. It involves all the symptoms of postpartum depression, the worst of which is thinking about harming yourself and your baby.
Postpartum psychosis should be given immediate medical attention because it’s a medical emergency. Here are the signs and symptoms of the condition:
- Confusion and disorientation
- Quick mood swings
- Obsessively thinking about the baby
- Hallucination and delusion (paranoia and irrationality)
- Inability to sleep and eat well
- Too much energy and agitation
- Attempts to hurt oneself and the baby
Individuals diagnosed with postpartum psychosis have life-threatening thoughts and behaviors. That’s why urgent treatment is a must.
Postpartum Depression in Fathers
It’s not only mothers who experience postpartum depression—fathers undergo it, too. This is called paternal postpartum depression.
Fathers with postpartum depression feel sad, overwhelmed, and anxious. They may also have difficulty sleeping and experience changes in their eating patterns. Men who are at risk of developing the condition:
- Are young and have a history of depression
- Have relationship problems at work or at home
- Are struggling financially
Not only do they worry about the health condition of their wife and child, but they also suffer due to financial obligations and responsibilities.
Suppose your husband or partner is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression during your pregnancy or a few weeks after you give birth. In that case, you should encourage them to visit a healthcare provider. Treatment and management of paternal postpartum depression are the same as those used for women.
Diagnosis of Postpartum Depression
If you notice that you’re experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor. How is postpartum depression diagnosed?
Your doctor may ask you relevant questions to evaluate your condition. They may also ask you to take blood tests in order to check your hormone levels.
A screening tool used to detect major depression among pregnant and postpartum women is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). It’s a depression screening questionnaire wherein if you get a score higher than 13, you may need to be thoroughly assessed for postpartum depression.
Prevention of Postpartum Depression
The truth is, postpartum depression can be difficult to prevent. If you developed the mental health illness when you had your first child, it might happen again during your next pregnancy. The best you can do is to prepare for postpartum depression before giving birth.
Your preparation can include the following:
- Keep your body and mind healthy.
- Stay active while pregnant.
- Use stress-reducing techniques such as yoga and meditation.
- Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol after giving birth.
- Visit your doctor regularly during pregnancy.
- Visit your doctor for a postpartum checkup.
If you’re planning to get pregnant or you recently found out that you’re pregnant, you should tell your doctor about it right away. That way, you can be monitored for symptoms of postpartum depression.
After the birth of your child, your doctor may ask you to undergo a postpartum checkup. Should you be diagnosed with the condition then, they could recommend antidepressant medication or psychotherapy.
The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) advocates that the general population, including pregnant and postpartum women, be screened for depression. This effort by the AAFP is for the sake of ensuring that everyone is accurately diagnosed, receives proper treatment, and is given the right amount of support.
Treatment of Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression includes counseling, antidepressant medication, and support groups. As with all other mental health conditions, it’s best to turn to your doctor regarding the options available to you.
A therapist can help you adjust to your new role as a parent. Marriage counseling, in particular, can help you and your partner manage your relationship so you can both take care of the entire family well.
There are two kinds of counseling therapies recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in treating PPD:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Through CBT, you can manage your negative thoughts by changing the way you think and acting in a positive manner. Your therapist will assist you in setting goals and recognizing negative thoughts and behaviors. They’ll also guide you in thinking and acting optimistically.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
IPT aims to help you identify and handle problems in your life such as relationships at home and at work or even any medical conditions you may have. Your therapist will work with you through role-playing. They’ll ask open-ended questions to assess how you make decisions and interact with others.
If you’re breastfeeding and you need to take antidepressants, you have to let your doctor know beforehand. Some antidepressants are relatively safe for breastfeeding women, and your doctor can prescribe the best one for you. Medication is best paired with psychotherapy.
Remember that help is available when you need it. Don’t think that postpartum depression is unmanageable—you can recover from this condition. There’s also no need to be ashamed or reluctant to consult a mental health expert if you think you have symptoms of postpartum depression.
When to See a Doctor
You should urgently visit a mental health professional if your symptoms linger for more than two weeks. It’s equally advisable to have yourself checked if your symptoms worsen and you’re having a hard time taking care of your newborn. See your doctor if for some reason you can no longer accomplish your daily tasks or, worse, you’re having suicidal thoughts.
It’d be best, however, for you to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 the moment you find yourself constantly thinking about self-harm. Afterward, visit your primary care provider and work with a mental health expert to get proper diagnosis and treatment.
Don’t forget to reach out to people you trust, such as your friends and family members. You may also choose to talk with your spiritual leader or a member of your religious community should you need more support.
Complications of Postpartum Depression
Mother and child bonding is greatly affected when postpartum depression remains untreated. Family problems may arise due to the condition as well. If postpartum depression is allowed to go on for months, chronic depressive disorder may soon follow.
A mother may still be at risk for major depression episodes even as they’re getting treatment for postpartum depression. In turn, that might exacerbate the father’s depression. Emotional strain in the family can result when such a situation occurs.
Children are also impacted when their mother has postpartum depression. They could develop all sorts of emotional and behavioral problems. They may cry more often than usual, and their language development might be delayed as well.
How to Help Pregnant and Postpartum Women
Most mothers may not be aware that they have postpartum depression. If you’re a first-time mother and it’s only now that you’re learning about the condition, talk to your doctor if you think you have the symptoms.
If you’ve experienced postpartum depression, it may be easier for you to spot an individual who’s going through it. If a friend or relative seems to be developing either postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis, encourage them to see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
With that said, here are some coping tips for postpartum women that you can try or share with loved ones:
Form a Secure Attachment With Your Baby
Creating an attachment between a mother and child is important for the baby’s holistic development. A secure attachment is formed when they’re able to identify and respond to each other’s needs.
Learn how to bond with your baby—you and your infant will surely benefit from this in the long run. When a secure attachment is formed, the child will develop well and can form better relationships until adulthood. You’ll also feel happier and more confident because of the endorphins released by your body.
Ask for Help and Support
Aim for positive social interactions to relieve stress. Talk with your loved ones and let them know what you need. It’s not always beneficial to keep your feelings to yourself and push down your emotions.
If you can, join a support group where you can share what you’re going through with others who are in the same boat. This might make you feel better knowing that you’re not battling the condition on your own.
It can be tough, but you have to do everything you can to take care of your mental and physical well-being. You can start by making small adjustments to your lifestyle such as not overworking yourself with household chores. Equip your body with what it needs to heal by exercising and getting enough sunlight.
Give yourself a few moments of silence to meditate and focus your thoughts. Make sure that you get adequate sleep and eat well. In addition, set aside some quality me time that you can spend by enjoying a cup of tea or having a warm, uninterrupted bath.
Make Time for Your Partner
Couples can find strength in the emotional and social connection they have with one another. Having a baby, however, may change the dynamics of their relationship. This is perhaps one of the reasons that half of divorces happen after childbirth.
It’s easy to yell at your partner if you haven’t slept well or are feeling overwhelmed. Regardless of your current state, do your best to properly communicate with your partner. Divide the chores and the task of taking care of the baby so no one’s more exhausted than the other.
You and your partner should make an extra effort to bond with each other. You don’t need to find a babysitter and go out on a date, especially if the two of you are tired. Spending at least 30 minutes daily to have a focused conversation is enough. This can be done while your infant is asleep or all of your children have gone to bed.
Living With Postpartum Depression
Having postpartum depression doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it certainly doesn’t mean that you love your baby any less. Keep in mind that you’re not the only one with the condition. There are other parents out there who’ve gone or are going through it.
You don’t have to suffer from postpartum depression forever. Here are some helpful tips from other individuals who’ve experienced it:
- Call family members or friends whom you can share your feelings with.
- When it comes to childcare, household chores, and errands outside the home, you can ask for help from loved ones. You could even hire a professional postpartum doula. This kind of support will allow you to practice self-care.
- Give yourself some alone time. Even for just 15 minutes, take your mind off of your worries. You can try reading a book or doing a light workout.
- Keep a diary or journal. This is a good way to pour your emotions out.
- You may not be able to do everything all in one day, so celebrate your small accomplishments daily. Since bouncing back from pregnancy and childbirth isn’t easy, you have to learn to find happiness in even the little things.
- Keep in touch with fellow parents who’ve gone through postpartum depression.
- Approach your doctor and counselor for medical and mental support whenever you need to.
You’re a Wonderful Mom!
The truth is, you’re not exactly the same person you used to be before your child was born. For instance, you may not be able to do certain things at the same intensity due to the changes in your physical and mental state.
There are some days when you’ll do great as a mom, and there are also days when the house will be a mess and you’ll feel as though you haven’t done anything productive. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just breathe and relax.
Counseling Now understands how difficult it is to balance between yourself, your baby, your partner, and everything else in your life. That’s why we offer quality mental health care services online. With us, you can get treated by a professional health care provider in the comfort of your own home.
Don’t let the baby blues or postpartum depression weigh you down. Counseling Now believes that you’re an amazing mom through and through. All you need is the right treatment that’ll enable you to get back on your feet and enjoy life with your family. Book an appointment today with Counseling Now!