Amidst the joy of welcoming a child comes significant adjustment and sleep deprivation. It is normal to have some emotional ups and downs in the midst of adjustment, yet some of us find ourselves in a place where we know all is not well.
In these situations, if you are not feeling like yourself and if your joy and enthusiasm for relationships and your basic functioning are being affected, it may be time to pause and consider reaching out for more support. Seeking support in order to become well again is not only a worthy endeavor for you as an individual; it also will allow you to enjoy your child and begin to embrace parenting in all of its beauty and chaos.
What is postpartum depression?
Depression can occur in pregnancy as well as post delivery. Depression that is brought on during pregnancy is called prenatal or antepartum depression, and depression after delivery is called postpartum depression. Approximately 15 percent of women experience some degree of postpartum depression after delivery.
The percentages are even higher for women living in poverty. Postpartum depression ranges in severity. Risk factors include:
Having a previous or family history of mental-health struggles
Dealing with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
Having low social support
Having stressful life events and changes such as a house move or job loss
Financial or marital stress
Complications during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
Having a child born prematurely or being a mother to multiples
Any sort of medical complications for the baby or for the mom
Having an unplanned pregnancy
Some women who experience a traumatic delivery may find themselves experiencing birth-induced post traumatic stress disorder. This involves feelings of intense helplessness and terror related to the birth experience that are manifested in symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks, disturbing memories of the birth, and avoidance of anything birth-related.
In rare instances, women may experience postpartum psychosis. Typically, only one tenth of 1 percent of new mothers are affected.
The onset of symptoms comes on quickly and intensely — usually two to three weeks after birth — and includes delusions and hallucinations. Hospitalization is necessary for initial stabilization before ongoing support and treatment can take place.
What is male postpartum depression?
Male postpartum depression is real. In fact, every day in the United States, 1,000 new dads become depressed.
Similarly to women, men also experience the joy over a new baby accompanied with a great deal of stress and lack of sleep. They are adjusting to a new normal in the home that can be extremely difficult to adjust to.
What are the signs of postpartum depression?
The symptoms below can start anytime during the pregnancy or in the first year following the delivery. Symptoms must be present for more than two weeks to differentiate postpartum depression from “postpartum blues.”
Feelings of anger or irritability
Sadness and crying
Lack of interest in the baby
Disturbances in appetite and sleep
Feeling hopelessness and guilt
Loss of interest in things that brought joy previously
Possible thoughts of harming oneself or the baby
How long does postpartum depression last?
It is normal to have some degree of “baby blues” after having a baby. Typically, these emotions fade after one to two weeks. Postpartum depression tends to set in with an intensity that merits attention. With supportive treatment, postpartum depression typically improves. How long it lasts varies depending on the severity and the action taken to address it.
For some people, postpartum depression continues and develops into chronic depression. Ideally, by addressing the depression, symptoms are alleviated sooner rather than later. Sometimes upon feeling better, we are tempted to stop treatment, but it may be worth maintaining treatment, even upon feeling better to promote sustained improvement and functioning. This ensures that you continue feeling better and that you are able to more fully enjoy caring for your child.
Do I have Postpartum Depression?
How is postpartum depression treated?
Postpartum depression is typically treated with combining approaches of therapy and medication. Medically, it’s important to treat any contributing issues such as thyroid problems which may be exacerbating the depression. Stabilizing both your ability to sleep and your appetite is critical to helping move you to a place of restoration.
With a new baby, it can be hard to get enough sleep, so taking time to nap during the day when your baby sleeps whenever possible may be critical to ensuring you get enough rest. Similarly, taking time to cook full meals may be incredibly overwhelming between adjusting to the new baby and the layers of emotions you are experiencing. Take steps to make sure you are eating enough by having simple snacks like fruit and yogurt throughout the day.
Medication may be helpful for stabilizing the intensity of the depression, so that you move towards a place of feeling like yourself again as soon as possible. Therapy provides an objective, supportive relationship in which you can express yourself. A therapist may gently help you challenge irrational beliefs which only contribute to depressive feelings. Therapy provides opportunities for insight, growth, and movement through the depression to the other side of the depression. Ensuring that you have a strong support system is key to walking through postpartum depression.
Schedule an evaluation today at the Right Track Medical Group clinic nearest you.
Postpartum Depression Resources
Depression During Pregnancy & Postpartum: Postpartum Support International: https://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-postpartum-mental-health/
Learn more about depression during and after pregnancy and answers to common questions related to postpartum depression.
Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale: http://www.fresno.ucsf.edu/pediatrics/downloads/edinburghscale.pdf
The 10-question Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) is a screening tool that can help identify people at risk for perinatal depression.
Identifying Postpartum Depression: A Three Question Screening Tool: https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/identifying-postpartum-depression-a-three-question-screening-tool/
This three question screening tool was adapted from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to serve as a more brief survey useful in identifying symptoms of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression: Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376623
This guide provided by the Mayo Clinic includes information on the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of postpartum depression.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Disorders: Mental Health America: https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/pregnancy-and-postpartum-disorders
This guide by Mental Health America explains additional information on postpartum depression including contributing factors and information on how postpartum depression can contribute to other mental illnesses such as birth related PTSD.