13 Dec Postpartum Depression: What You Need to Know
You might have heard of postpartum depression (PPD). Probably, you are here because you think you or a loved one might be experiencing it. Perhaps, you have just gone through childbirth. Afterward, you have noticed some unexplained shifts in mood, thoughts, and behavior. 1 in 10 women have postpartum depression, and you want to find out if you have it, too. Here is the information you need to know, including the signs and treatment options.
Postpartum Depression Definition
What is postpartum depression? Are mood swings, anxiety, and too much crying signs of it?
The word postpartum means the time after giving birth to a child, and depression generally refers to a mood disorder that causes prolonged and extreme sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. Causes of PPD may either be physical changes, emotional troubles, genetics, or a mix of two or even all of the aforementioned.
Most mothers have mood swings and anxiety, as well as episodes of crying that usually last for a few days or a few weeks after giving birth. The condition is called postpartum baby blues, which usually goes away on its own. This means that usually, no treatment is needed.
On the other hand, a more intense and prolonged form of mood swings, fear, sadness, and a whole other myriad of negative emotions is called postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues (Signs and Symptoms)
Is it baby blues or the more serious postpartum depression? Let’s have a side-by-side look at the signs. If you think that it is likely postpartum depression that you are experiencing and not just baby blues, then you must seek medical attention.
|Postpartum Depression||Postpartum Baby Blues|
|Avoidance of friends and family caused by feelings of shame uselessness and guilt that stem from a lack of confidence as a mother||Sadness|
|Difficulty bonding with the baby caused by intense irritability and anger||Feeling overwhelmed causes irritability|
|Insomnia or hypersomnia||Trouble sleeping due to anxiety|
|Severe mood swings leading to depressive mood||Mood swings|
|Persistent overeating or loss of appetite||Appetite problems|
|Difficulty making decisions||Decreased focus|
|Recurring suicidal thoughts caused by hopelessness|
|Feeling of exhaustion; lack of enthusiasm and energy|
When does PPD start?
Typically, the signs begin to appear shortly after childbirth. However, for some, the onset of depression is sometime during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In this case, we use peripartum depression as the proper term.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Without intervention, postpartum depression, as well as peripartum depression, can last weeks, months, or even years. The earlier the intervention, the better chance of avoiding PPD or at least shortening its duration. Moreover, how long postpartum depression lasts depends on the individual – their openness to treatment, consistency of the treatment, accurate diagnoses, and overall health.
Postpartum Depression Treatment and Diagnosis
How is PPD diagnosed? Healthcare experts use various evaluation tools to determine if a patient has developed postpartum depression or is at risk of having it. These evaluation tools are in the form of questions that intend to reveal the patient’s state of mind. Once they find out that the patient has PPD signs and symptoms, they evaluate further how severe the depression is. Some of the most important indicators of severity are the patient’s thoughts of harming the baby and taking their own life (suicide). To further ensure a proper diagnosis, doctors also ask questions that help rule out other conditions, such as postpartum psychosis, bipolar disorder, and hypothyroidism.
Since cases of PPD have been increasing not only among mothers but other parents as well, many doctors conduct their evaluation against any risk factors in their patients as early as the initial prenatal check-up.
Here are some of the known risk factors of PPD:
- Having a history of depression
- Having a bipolar disorder
- Experiencing difficulties during or immediately before pregnancy, or before or after childbirth (tragic life event, job loss, illness, etc.)
- Having financial problems
- Having family problems (with spouse and/or children)
- Having a child with special needs or illness
- Having inadequate social support or none at all
If your doctor did not do any PPD evaluation during your prenatal visits, and you began to notice any signs of PPD listed above after giving birth, consult them as soon as possible. Once they arrive at the test results, they will begin treatment or refer you to a specialist.
Here are the most common types of PPD treatment:
- Antidepressants – antidepressant medicine that can be safely taken by breastfeeding mothers.
- Psychotherapy – a series of mental health counseling given at regular intervals.
- Other medicines – medicines that treat other conditions tied up to PPD such as insomnia or appetite loss.
Aside from the treatments mentioned above, experts recommend the following activities and interventions that may help improve symptoms of both PPD and postpartum baby blues:
- Have “me” time. Take care of yourself and find time to do it. It may be too difficult for moms who are single-handedly raising their children, but a few minutes of relaxation exercise or a cup of nice and warm tea may make a big difference in their mental state for the rest of the day.
- When there is a chance, ask for help from family and friends. Sometimes we shy away from bothering others even only for a few minutes to relieve ourselves from looking after our children. Tell them you are tired or overwhelmed. More often than not, they respond positively and will ask how they can best help you.
- Get as much rest as you can. You may be easily annoyed by the piles of laundry or the dirty milk bottles, but rest well first. Cleaning tasks seem never-ending, and this is causing us too much stress. Sadly, fatigue and stress invite a lot of depressing thoughts. You might end up feeling useless or helpless, but you could avoid such a feeling if you took the opportunity to rest. You would be surprised by how much you can accomplish if you are well-rested. In return, this sense of accomplishment creates good thoughts and feelings.
- Choose a healthy and wholesome lifestyle. Say no to alcohol and cigarettes that can worsen your mood swings.
Seek Treatment from People Who Are Experts in the Field of Psychological Resilience
It is a must to seek help from mental health professionals. They can provide treatment or a combination of treatments that best suit your individual needs. Nonetheless, the goal of your visit to a healthcare provider must not be only to address the symptoms of PPD on a short-term basis. Instead, aim to achieve long-term psychological resilience.
Entrusting your mental health issues to people who are experts in the field of psychological resilience may give you lasting power over any kind of adversity.
Motherhood is one of the most beautiful things that can ever happen to a woman. However, pregnancy and childbirth can bring a multitude of physical, emotional, and mental challenges to her, as well as to the other parent. Motherhood is the toughest, more often than not the life-changing role she can ever do. As a result, some mothers fall into depression after childbirth, and if left untreated can pose threats to their overall health and well-being. It can indeed affect their relationships. More importantly, it can greatly interfere with their motherhood and worse, completely disable them to care for their children. Let us normalize talking about mental health issues, especially postpartum depression. As mentioned, seek help from loved ones and experts in the field of psychological resilience. The latter knows you best and can provide the best support you need. The former, with their years of studies and medical and counseling expertise, can provide you with the approach most appropriate for you.