Is Post Partum Depression Common?
During pregnancy and after it, your mind and body go through a lot of changes. The physical and emotional upheaval can take its toll, and in some women, postpartum depression is the result.
This type of depression is often misunderstood and it takes many women by surprise. After all, being a new mom is supposed to be a wonderful and happy time. Therefore, feeling emotionless, sad, and empty after giving birth is often worrying. New mothers who feel this way sometimes worry that they are bad parents. They struggle to care for or even love their newborn. This makes them feel ashamed and inadequate as a woman and as a mother. If you feel this way, you could be suffering from postpartum depression. Although it is a challenging condition, rest assured that it is surprisingly common and that there are treatments that can help. Seeking help is, therefore, imperative, so that you and your little one can stay healthy.
Post Partum Depression And The Baby Blues – Is There A Difference?
A lot of women suffer from something known as the “baby blues”. This is a normal part of giving birth and it occurs due to the hormones changing inside the body. It causes women to feel empty or sad a few days after the birth. The baby blues is a short-term problem. They will go away within a week or so. If yours don’t, and you’re left feeling empty, hopeless or sad for more than two weeks after you give birth, this indicates that post partum depression could be the problem.
If you’re suffering from the baby blues, you’ll probably experience:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed, anxious or sad
- Suffer from crying spells
- Struggle to sleep
- Lose your appetite
These are all the same as the symptoms associated with post partum depression, but they will diminish within around 3 to 5 days. Post partum depression symptoms, meanwhile, last longer. They are also more severe. Post partum depression will usually start within a month of giving birth, but for some women it starts before giving birth or within the first year of their baby’s life.
What Is Post Partum Depression?
This form of depression is a mental illnesses involving the brain and affecting your physical health and behavior. It is characterized by feelings of sadness, flatness, emptiness and depression that fail to go away and that interfere with your ability to go about your daily life. Many women suffering from this form of depression feel a lack of connection with their new baby. Some find it hard to love their newborn or to care for him. Some may feel as if they aren’t really their baby’s mother. Those feelings may be mild, but they may also be more severe, with anxiety disorders being a common co-occurrence.
Is Post Partum Depression Common?
Although post partum depression is poorly understood, it is a surprisingly common problem. In fact, one out of every nine new moms suffers from it.
What Are The Symptoms Of Post Partum Depression?
There are some changes following giving birth that are considered to be normal and that cause symptoms that are quite similar to those you experience when you have depression. For example, feeling overwhelmed when you bring your new baby home is quite normal. However, there are other symptoms that are not. These include:
- Feeling moody or restless
- Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and sad
- Crying continuously or a lot
- Having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
- Lacking interest in your baby, having a lack of connection with your newborn or feeling as if your baby belongs to somebody else
- Lacking motivation and energy
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Struggling to focus or make decisions
- Having problems with your memory
- Feeling like a bad mother, guilty or worthless
- Losing any pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Becoming socially isolated and withdrawing from your family and friends
- Having aches, pains, stomach problems or headaches that don’t go away
A lot of women experience the symptoms of post partum depression and tell nobody because they feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed about feeling miserable and depressed at a time when society expects them to feel happy. Many also worry they’re a bad mother. However, any woman may be depressed either during their pregnancy or after giving birth. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad mother and help is out there. It’s therefore vital to speak to your doctor if you feel this way so that you can access the help that you need to get better.
What Is The Cause Of Post Partum Depression?
It is believed that hormonal changes trigger the symptoms associated with post partum depression. When you’re pregnant, the level of progesterone and estrogen (the female hormones) in your body are at their highest possible level. However, during the first day after giving birth, your hormone levels drop dramatically back to your normal, pre-pregnancy level. It is this sudden shift that could cause depression.
It’s also thought that thyroid hormone levels drop when you’ve given birth. The thyroid gland is a small gland in your neck which regulates the way in which your body stores and uses energy derived from food. If your thyroid hormone levels are low, depression symptoms can arise. It’s possible to have a blood test to detect whether this condition could be causing the symptoms you’re experiencing, and medications can be prescribed to resolve the issue.
There are other feelings and factors too that can contribute to the development of post partum depression. These include:
- Tiredness after the process of labor and delivery
- Tiredness due to broken sleep or lack of sleep
- Feeling overwhelmed about how to cope with your new baby
- Doubting your ability to be the best mother for your child
- Stress from the change to your work or home routine
- Feeling an unrealistic need to be perfect as a mother
- Grieving the loss of the woman you were before giving birth
- Feeling less attractive
- Lacking free time to enjoy yourself
Do Some Women Have A Greater Chance Of Developing Post Partum Depression Than Others?
There are some women who have a greater chance of developing post partum depression. You’re more at risk if you:
- Have family members who suffer from bipolar disorder or depression
- Have a personal history of bipolar disorder or depression
- Lack support of friends, family or a partner
- Suffered from depression during your pregnancy
- Struggled with a previous birth or pregnancy
- Have money problems or a difficult relationship
- Are under 20 years of age
- Use illegal substances, are an alcoholic, or struggle with some form of addiction
- Have a special needs baby
- Struggle with breastfeeding
- Had an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
The Difference Between Post Partum Depression And Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is sometimes confused with post partum depression, but it isn’t the same thing at all. It is a rare condition that affects around 4 new moms in every thousand births. Usually, it begins within 2 weeks of giving birth and it’s a medical emergency that requires immediate help. Women suffering from schizoaffective disorder or bipolar disorder are especially at risk of developing this condition.
The symptoms include:
- Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
- Suffering from rapid mood swings in the space of minutes
- Feeling confused a lot of the time
- Trying to harm your baby or yourself
- Feeling paranoid and thinking other people want to hurt you
- Feeling agitated or restless
- Behaving recklessly or abnormally
If you experience these symptoms, it’s imperative to get help straight away.
What Do I Do If I’m Experiencing Post Partum Depression Symptoms?
If you’re experiencing the symptoms associated with post partum depression it’s important to get help for your baby’s sake and your own. Call your pediatrician, midwife, nurse or doctor if:
- The baby blues don’t diminish within two weeks of the symptoms arising
- The symptoms become more intense
- You develop depression symptoms within a year of delivering your baby and the last for over 2 weeks
- You’re finding it hard to work or carry out normal day to day activities due to your symptoms
- You’re struggling to care for your baby or yourself
- You’re having thoughts about harming your baby or yourself
If you feel unable to talk to your medical professional, ask a friend, family member or your partner to contact them on your behalf. You can then be tested for depression and referred if necessary to a mental health professional to get the treatment and help you need.
Can I Treat Post Partum Depression At Home?
You should see a medical professional to get help for your post partum depression, however, there are things you can do at home too to help you feel better. These include:
- Resting as much as possible. Try to sleep whenever your baby is asleep.
- Avoiding trying to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, family or your partner to help you out.
- Making time to visit friends, spend time with your partner, and go out.
- Discussing the way you feel with your supportive friends and family members.
- Discussing the way you feel with other mothers and learn about their experiences.
- Joining a support group in your area. Your nurse or doctor should be able to help point you in the right direction.
- Avoiding making major life changes straight after you give birth. This will only add more stress to your life and worsen your depression symptoms. If a big change can’t be avoided, try to get help and support in advance to minimize the pressure.
- Asking a friend, family member or partner to help you care for your baby if you’re feeling depressed.
How Can Post Partum Depression Be Treated?
There are several common ways in which post partum depression can be treated. These include:
- Therapy – in therapy, you’ll talk to a counselor, psychologist or therapist and learn strategies that change the way that depression makes you act, feel and think.
- Medication – several medicines exist to treat post partum depression. They will need to be prescribed for you by a nurse or doctor. Antidepressants are the most common medication to be prescribed for this form of depression. They relieve the symptoms you experience and some may be taken even if you’re breastfeeding. Be aware, though, that they can take weeks to begin working. Brexanolone has also been approved by the FDA for the treatment of post partum depression. This medication is given via an IVA by a nurse or doctor for a period of 60 hours (2 and a half days). This medicine may only be given under a medical professional’s care in a doctor’s office or clinic. Esketamine can also be given as a nasal spray to treat depression in your doctor’s clinic or office. It isn’t suitable for use if you’re breastfeeding though.
- ECT – in very extreme cases, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) can be used for treating post partum depression.
These treatments may either be used alone or in conjunction with each other. Your nurse or doctor will be able to advise you about the right options to suit your needs.
What Will Happen if I Don’t Get My Post Partum Depression Treated?
Suffering from depression may affect your newborn, so getting help and treatment couldn’t be more important. Remember that many women suffer in this way after giving birth, and taking medication or receiving counseling for your depression doesn’t make you a failure as a mother. In fact, getting the help you need shows that you are strong and want the best for yourself and your baby.
Without treatment, you may not be able to parent your newborn properly. You may:
- Lack energy
- Struggle to focus on your own needs and those of your baby
- Feel moody
- Have a greater chance of suicidal behavior
It’s also possible that untreated post partum depression could affect your child in several ways including:
- Problems with child/mother bonding
- Delays in learning and language development
- Behavior issues
- More agitation or crying
- Higher obesity risk and shorter height in pre-schoolers
- Difficult coping with stress and adjusting to social situations
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why it’s so imperative to get the help you need to address your post partum depression as quickly as possible. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself and they don’t go away within a couple of weeks, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or Meadowglade to get treatment. In the long run, both you and your baby will benefit.