If you are a new mom who expected her motherhood to be full of happiness and joy, it can be really frustrating for you when you actually start feeling the opposite of what you imagined. Rest assured, you are not the only one. About 80 percent of the women who have just given birth to a baby suffer from baby blues- an emotional state of unhappiness, tearfulness, fatigue, and self-doubt. The baby blues generally begin shortly after delivery and remain for a week or so.
However, if you feel these feelings getter stronger and more hold of you with every passing day, there could be a problem. The persistence of these signs beyond two weeks can be a sign that you are suffering from postpartum depression.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is regarded as a mood disorder that commonly affects women immediately after they give birth. Mothers who suffer from this disease tend to experience a feeling of exhaustion, anxiety, and extreme sadness that makes it difficult for them to perform their daily activities, including taking care of the newborn.
Sometimes, it can be really tough to spot the difference between postpartum depression and the normal stress experienced due to new parenthood. If your feelings of unhappiness or despair seem so powerful that they hinder you to perform daily chores, you could be a victim of PPD.
As per the American Psychiatric Association, PPD can initiate can initiate both before and after pregnancy. Half of the victims of this disease suffer from PPD-related symptoms during the span of their pregnancy.
Postpartum depression is a powerful disease and has a tendency to last for a longer duration of time. It usually follows 15 percent of births, in the first-time mothers and in those who have given birth before too. Postpartum depression must never be taken lightly. It is a serious disorder, but with proper care, it can be treated.
How does Postpartum Depression Manifest itself?
It is quite normal to feel exhausted or fatigued after giving birth to a baby. PPD, however, goes far beyond that. The symptoms related to this disease are severe and have the ability to interfere with your normal body functioning.
Symptoms of PPD tend to vary from person to person and even from day to day. If you suspect yourself as a case of PPD, look out for the following symptoms:
- You are always exhausted but are unable to sleep
- You are always sad and want to cry, even when you don’t know the reason
- You are unable to control your eating habits
- You suffer from a lot of unexplained pains, aches, and illnesses
- Your mood changes without any reason
- You feel like you are out of your own control
- You find it difficult to remember things
- You have poor concentration and judgmental skills
- You have no interest in things you were once crazy about
- You often feel disconnected from your newborn and often wonder why you are not happy the way you thought you would be
- You feel guilty about yourself
- You feel like your self-worth is losing
- Everything feels hopeless and overwhelming
- You want to escape from the whole situation
- You feel like you cannot be honest with anyone regarding your feelings as others will judge you as a bad mother and take away your baby, so you withdraw
- You find yourself thinking about harming yourself or the baby
Most of the time, your family and friends are the first to notice you withdrawing from them along with all the social activities. They might also complain how you do not seem like yourself anymore.
The symptoms of postpartum depression usually begin within a few weeks of delivery. In some cases, it might not even surface until months. Symptoms of postpartum depression may disappear for a day or two but return soon after. Without any treatment, these symptoms are likely to get worse.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
The exact causes of postpartum depression are unclear, but there are a few facts that may contribute to the development of this disease. Postpartum depression is initiated by a combination of emotional and physical changes.
One of the major physical contributors to postpartum depression is hormonal change. In a pregnant woman, the levels of progesterone and estrogen are extremely high. These levels decrease drop back to their normal state shortly after giving a birth. This sudden change in the hormonal levels of a female may serve as one of the causes of postpartum depression.
Some other physical triggers include:
- Deprivation of sleep
- Low levels of thyroid hormones
- Inadequate diet
- Misuse of alcohol and drugs
- Underlying medical problems
Certain emotional factors are of particular value in determining your vulnerability to postpartum depression. For instance, you are more likely to suffer from this disease if you have a history of mood disorder or if these disorders run in your family.
Other important emotional stressors include:
- Lack of support
- Social isolation
- Recent death or divorce of a loved one
- Financial problems
- You or your baby having serious medical problems
How is postpartum depression different from “baby blues”?
Baby blues is a terminology used to describe a state of mixed feelings regarding fatigue, unhappiness, and worry. Because infants require a lot of care, it is fairly normal for a mother to feel overwhelmed and worried from providing that care. As mentioned before, baby blues occur in about 80 percent of the women, last for a week or so, and fade away on their own.
When these baby blues hinder the women from taking care of herself and the family, it is known as postpartum depression. Because the symptoms of postpartum depression are severe, the issue requires immediate attention. In contrast to baby blues, postpartum depression occur in approximately 15 percent of the women, as per a study. The same study has also indicated that 19.3 percent of these women with postpartum depression frequently think about harming themselves while another 22.6 percent have a history of the undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
What are the Treatment Options?
Fortunately, there is a way to fight postpartum depression. A health care provider can help her choose the most suitable treatment plan which may include:
Talk Therapy/ Counseling
These sessions involve talking one-on-one with a mental health care professional. This can be either a therapist, counselor, psychiatrist, psychologist or a social worker. Two particular types of therapies have been successful in treating postpartum depression. These include:
- Interpersonal therapy, which helps people to develop an understanding of their problems and work through their personal relationships
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, that helps the people identify and change their negative behaviors and thought patterns
Antidepressant medications directly act on the neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals which regulate mood. These medications usually take a few weeks to start working. While antidepressants are considered safe to be used in lactating mothers, it is highly recommended to talk to a health care physician before starting the therapy.
While counseling and medications can help you fight postpartum depression, don’t forget to make efforts on your behalf by following these tips:
- Join a depression support group or a group of new mothers to cut down your social isolation
- Keep yourself relaxed and well-rested by indulging in soothing activities such as hot baths, meditation, or massage
- Get help from family in running errands
- Communicate your feelings with those who are willing to listen