Long Lasting Post-Partum Depression?
When you have a baby, your emotions are all over the place. One moment you feel joy and excitement, but the next you may feel anxiety and fear. This is quite normal after giving birth and is known colloquially as the “baby blues”. However, when the baby blues get out of hand, it’s known as post-partum depression.
Baby blues usually begin within a couple of days of giving birth and last for a couple of weeks. The symptoms include crying spells, mood swings, insomnia and anxiety. However, post-partum depression has symptoms which are much more severe. This condition is a complicated mix of emotional, behavioral and physical emotions that occur after giving birth. It’s a type of major depression which usually begins within the first four weeks following delivery and it can last for much longer than the baby blues.
What Is Post-Partum Depression?
This type of major depression is associated with the psychological, social and chemical changes linked with giving birth. The term is used to describe a variety of emotional and physical changes that are experienced by many new moms. Although post-partum depression is difficult to cope with, it is treatable with counseling and medication.
Following delivery, the new mother experiences a rapid drop in her hormones. While the link between this chemical change and depression isn’t clear, it’s known that levels of progesterone and estrogen increase tenfold when a woman is pregnant. After delivery, they drop significantly. Three days after giving birth, the level of both of those hormones have returned to their pre-pregnancy levels. Not only do these chemical changes cause hormonal upheaval in the body, but the psychological and social changes that are linked to having a new baby increase the risk of suffering from depression.
Which Symptoms Are Associated With Post-Partum Depression?
The symptoms associated with postpartum depression are very similar to those which usually happen after childbirth. They include appetite changes, difficulty sleeping, decreased libido, mood changes and excessive fatigue. However, these symptoms are accompanied by many others which aren’t normal following childbirth including low mood, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness and loss of pleasure, or even thoughts of suicide or of harming oneself or others.
Am I Likely To Get Post-Partum Depression?
There are many factors which increase the chance of developing post-partum depression. These include:
- Having a history of depression before or during pregnancy
- Age when you’re pregnant – younger people have a higher risk of depression
- How ambivalent you are about being pregnant
- The number of children you have – the more children you’ve got the greater the chance that you’ll experience depression during your subsequent pregnancies
- A lack of social support
- Marital conflict
- Living alone
How Do I Know If I’m Experiencing Post-Partum Depression?
Around one in ten women who have baby blues following their delivery will go on to develop post-partum depression. Around one out of every thousand women develop post-partum psychosis. It can be difficult for those who are suffering to know whether they’re actually suffering from depression or whether it’s just the baby blues.
Baby blues require no treatment – talking to other new mothers often helps and they go away within a few days or weeks. However PPD (post-partum depression) can kick in either a couple of days or a couple of months following childbirth. It can also happen after your first, second, third or subsequent child. Women experience feelings that are similar to baby blues – despair, sadness, irritability and anxiety – but those feelings don’t dissipate after a few weeks. They’re also much stronger than the feelings experienced in baby blues. PPD is so strong that it prevents the sufferer from completing her everyday activities.
The symptoms of PPD can even begin during pregnancy, or can arise as long as a year following the birth, and this can prove problematic, since new mothers often think that it’s too late to experience such symptoms and therefore fail to seek the help they need. The symptoms to be aware of include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty in bonding with the baby
- Excessive crying
- Poor appetite or excessive appetite
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Lack of energy or overwhelming fatigue
- Lack of interest in activities which you once enjoyed
- Increased anger and irritability
- Fears that you aren’t a good mother
- Feelings of hopelessness, shame, inadequacy or guilt
- An inability to make decisions
- Panic attacks or severe anxiety
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting your baby
- Recurring thoughts of suicide or death
If you have postpartum depression which remains untreated, it can endure for many months or even for years.
What Is Postpartum Psychosis?
This is a very severe mental illness which affects new mothers. It occurs quickly, and usually within the first 3 months following childbirth. It can cause women to be out of touch with reality, and to suffer auditory hallucinations, delusions or visual hallucinations. The other symptoms are insomnia, agitation, restlessness and unusual behaviors. If you experience post-partum psychosis you must get help quickly as you could be at risk of harming yourself or another person.
The symptoms include:
- Disorientation and confusion
- Obsessive thoughts about the baby
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Sleep disturbances
- Agitation and excessive energy
- Attempts to hurt your baby or yourself
If you believe you have post-partum psychosis or you believe someone close to you is suffering from this condition, you should seek professional help as this is a very serious medical condition which requires treatment as quickly as possible.
Am I At Risk Of Post-Partum Depression?
Some women are more at risk than others of suffering from post-partum depression. In some of those women, the depression is persistent and the symptoms actually increase over time rather than decrease. Evidence shows that 38% of women who suffer from post-partum depression experience ongoing problems that last for an extended period, with half of women who receive medical treatment for their depression continuing to experience unwanted symptoms over a year after the birth of their baby. Of women suffering from post-partum who don’t receive clinical treatment, a shocking 30% still suffer from unwanted symptoms as long as three years after the birth.
It’s important for sufferers to recognize, however, that post-partum depression isn’t caused by the woman herself. It’s a very common problem, experienced by many women and it doesn’t mean that the sufferer is a bad mother.
There are a number of factors which increase the risk of suffering from post-partum depression. These include:
- Suffering from depression either before or during the pregnancy
- Having a history of depression or bipolar disorder
- Having a family member who has a mental illness or depression
- Experiencing a stressful life event during pregnancy like a job loss, illness, bereavement or domestic violence
- Limited support from loved ones or a partner
- Medical complications during delivery
- Having a pre-term birth
- Having a child with a medical condition
- Confused feelings about being pregnant
- A drug-use or alcohol-abuse disorder
Am I At Risk For Long-Term Post-Partum Depression?
Researchers have identified a number of risk factors linked to long-lasting post-partum depression. Often, it is a continuation of a pre-existing depression instead of a brand new set of symptoms starting at delivery, but there are some other factors which play a role in post-partum depression which lasts for an extended period of time. These include:
- A poor relationship with a partner
- Having a history of being sexually abused
Long-term post-partum depression is also more likely if you are young, have a low income, or are from a minority background.
How Long Does Post-Partum Depression Last?
Although some people are under the impression that post-partum depression is a short-lived condition, in fact this isn’t necessarily the case. If it remains untreated, post-partum depression could last for several months and even for several years in certain cases.
The good news is that there is treatment available which helps women to cope with their symptoms and to improve their quality of life. If you’re experiencing ongoing feelings of sadness, flatness or emptiness for over two weeks after you’ve had a baby with no signs of improvement, you should talk to your doctor.
How Can I Avoid Getting Depressed After Childbirth?
If you’ve recently had a baby, you may be feeling down and worried. If you’re about to give birth, you may be worried that you’re going to develop post-partum depression. There are a few tips that you can keep in mind to help you to avoid this condition:
- Ask for some help
- Have realistic expectations both for you and your baby
- Take some exercises (with your doctor’s approval)
- Expect that some days will be bad and others will be good
- Eat healthily and avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Make time for your partner
- Avoid isolation – stay in touch with friends and family
- Try to limit the number of visitors you receive
- Limit visitors when you first go home
- Rest or sleep when baby sleeps
- Screen your phone calls
Although this isn’t a sure-fire way to ward off post-partum depression, taking action if you spot these symptoms is one of the best ways to ensure that you get help quickly so that your depression doesn’t get out of hand.
How Often Do Women Suffer From Long-Lasting Post-Partum Depression?
A significant percentage of women experience long-term post-partum depression. In fact, up to half of all affected women have PPD for an extended period. Yet, since post-partum depression adversely affects children’s development it’s essential to seek medical support. In fact 30% of moms who have been diagnosed depression still exhibit symptoms of depression as long as three years following delivery. Many of those are younger mothers with a lower income and who are of an ethnic minority. For those who have a poor quality relationship with their partner or a history of sexual abuse or depression, there is an even higher risk.
While this is worrying news for the mother, it also raises concerns for the welfare of the child. Maternal depression has been shown to have an adverse effect on child development, including verbal and cognitive abilities. Therefore, it couldn’t be more important for mothers with post-partum depression to get the necessary medical help to ensure the well-being of their own health and that of their baby.
How Can Long-Lasting Post-Partum Depression Be Treated?
There are several different treatments for post-partum depression depending on the severity and type of the woman’s symptoms. Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, psychotherapy or support groups are all possible treatments which could prove beneficial for women suffering from post-partum depression. If you’re breastfeeding, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re unable to take any medications for anxiety or depression. If you see your doctor, you may find that there are medications which are suitable to take even when you’re breastfeeding.
Should I Get Professional Help?
If you have untreated post-partum depression, this can be dangerous, not only for you but for your child too. New mothers should get professional help if they experience any of the following:
- Symptoms which persist for more than 2 weeks
- Symptoms which mean you cannot function normally
- An inability to cope with usual daily situations
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
- Extreme anxiety, fear or panic for most of the day
How To Help A Loved One With Post-Partum Depression
People who are suffering from post-partum depression may fail to recognize that they are experiencing depression. They may struggle to recognize the symptoms and signs of depression. If you’re concerned that a loved one is suffering from post-partum depression, it’s important to help them to get medical help quickly. Don’t delay and hope that they’ll improve over time.
Lots of women go through mood changes, with tearfulness and anxiety in the first few weeks after they have a baby. However, if those symptoms become increasingly severe and persistent, this could indicate post-partum depression. In some women this won’t go away within a short space of time. In fact, it can persist for many months after the birth. It is a severe mental illness which can cause ongoing medical problems. If you’re aware of the signs of symptoms of this type of major depression, you can help your loved one to get the right help quickly before the problem gets out of hand.
If you’re looking for treatment for long-term post partum depression following pregnancy at an outpatient facility, look no further than The Meadowglade. We’re a facility with a solid reputation for treating mental health issues and helping people develop healthy coping mechanisms for themselves. We also take most insurances, so reach out to see if we take your insurance and how we can help!