Motherhood brings an unmatched joy and, at times, cannot be described in words. The happiness of holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time, the excitement of raising a human! But sometimes, along with this, joy, fear, anxiety, or postpartum depression can also take over. According to experts, 70% of new mothers go through baby blues, but one in seven women experience postpartum depression symptoms.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
After delivering a baby, new mothers often feel an overwhelming sense of restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, loneliness, worthlessness, and sadness after having a baby. One minute they feel happy, and the next minute they are overwhelmed and start to cry. Feeling like this for a week to 10 days is not alarming. There is no specific definition of postpartum depression, but sometimes, these symptoms do not go away on their own and take the form of a mental illness that requires medical help; it is Postpartum Depression (PPD).
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
The typical postpartum depression symptoms include experiencing some or all of the following(1)
◾ Loss of appetite
◾ Feeling detached or no attachment to the baby
◾ Feeling restless
◾ Feeling anxious, irritable, or stressed all the time
◾ Low energy and low motivation
◾ Unexpected weight gain or loss
◾ Frequent crying
◾ Sleeping less or sleeping a lot
◾ Constant feelings of guilt or worthlessness
In some sporadic cases, women with severe signs of depression might also experience symptoms such as thoughts of hurting themselves or the baby or hearing voices and seeing people not present out of paranoia.
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How To Diagnose The Signs of Postpartum Depression
Any layman is not the right person to diagnose or recommend alternate therapy for treating depression. Instead, a new mother should get a proper diagnosis from a doctor or a practising psychologist for postpartum depression treatment. So, if a new mother you know is experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, talk to a doctor or a psychologist and seek the best treatment. Timely diagnosis can help in faster recovery.
Postpartum Depression Causes
There is no specific or defined cause for the signs of postpartum depression. However, it can be caused by a combination of hormonal changes that the body goes through after childbirth, lack of sleep, and increased stress after delivery. People with a previous history of depression are also more prone to experience postpartum depression symptoms. People in stressful or difficult marriages or family situations and new moms who have significantly fewer people to talk to can also experience PPD.
Risks Associated with Postpartum Depression
If diagnosed and proper depression treatment is done on time, there are no significant risks associated with postpartum depression. But in cases where PPD is severe, there are certain risks of the mother not taking care of her child, harming oneself or others, having massive weight loss or gain due to eating disorders associated with depression, etc.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Postpartum depression treatment is similar to treating any other form of depression. You would need to see a counsellor or a psychologist to treat PPD. Treatment differs from person to person and depends on many factors and situations.
In some cases, patients are prescribed relaxants or anti-depressants. Ensure you inform your doctor if you are breastfeeding and ensure these antidepressants are safe for your baby.
Many new parent support groups, such as Parent Tribe, are also a great way to seek additional support over and above medical help. In addition, talking to other parents at the same life and parenting stage can be reassuring and helpful.
When To Seek Doctor's Help
How to overcome postpartum depression is a question that goes into the mind of many people who have been diagnosed with depression and are undergoing counseling or therapy; you will need to visit your psychologist or doctor as often as they have prescribed you to. Apart from this, if you feel overwhelmed or concerned, there is no shame or embarrassment in having an early check-in with them. You should, without any delay, see your doctor again if the symptoms of postpartum depression are –
◾ Are getting worse
◾ Making it difficult for you to do day-to-day tasks
◾ Making it difficult for you to take care of your baby
◾ Making you have thoughts of harming yourself or others
Do Fathers Also Experience Postpartum Depression?
An estimated 4% of new fathers also experience signs of postpartum depression. The symptoms of PPD are similar to those experienced by mothers and may include feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, and changes in sleep and appetite. Fathers may also feel disconnected from their partner or baby and experience difficulty bonding with their child.
Like mothers, fathers with a history of depression or anxiety, a lack of social support, or who have experienced stressful life events are at higher risk of developing PPD.
It's essential for healthcare professionals to recognize that fathers can also experience PPD and to screen them for symptoms during postpartum checkups. Fathers experiencing PPD can benefit from the same treatments as mothers, including therapy, medication, and support groups.
In conclusion, postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe mental health condition that affects many new mothers after childbirth. PPD can have significant adverse effects on a mother's well-being and her relationship with her baby, as well as on her family and social functioning.
Various risk factors increase a mother's likelihood of developing PPD, including a history of depression, stressful life events, and lack of social support. It's essential for healthcare professionals to be aware of these risk factors and to screen new mothers for PPD symptoms during their postpartum checkups.
Fortunately, there are effective postpartum depression treatments, including therapy, medication, and support groups. With proper treatment and support, most mothers with PPD can recover and go on to lead happy and healthy lives with their families.
As a society, we must continue to raise awareness about PPD and provide resources and support for new mothers who are struggling with this condition. By doing so, we can help ensure that all mothers and babies have the best possible start in life.
Questions People Frequently Ask About Postpartum Depression
Q1 – What can I do as a family member of a new mother suffering from PPD?
Offer help and lend a listening ear. Sometimes new mothers are overwhelmed. So, please take a few tasks off their shoulders. Help them with tasks like burping the baby and changing the newborn's cloth diapers, massaging, or bathing the baby. This can give the new mother much-needed rest. Also, if she feels emotional or overwhelmed, talk to her and offer her a non-judgmental listening ear.
Q2 – Will I have to take antidepressants if I have PPD?
Not necessarily. It depends on the case, situation, and condition. Your doctor will know best if or not to prescribe antidepressants. But, no, not all depression patients have to take anti-depressants necessarily.
Q3 – I went through depression during my first pregnancy. Am I at risk of PPD in my second pregnancy as well?
The chances of someone having experienced depression in the past and having it again postpartum are present. Although, you won't necessarily go through it again. You can speak to your doctor in advance and tell them about your history of depression so that all necessary precautions, support, and treatments can be planned.