Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that develops in the weeks following delivery. A postpartum depression diagnosis does not mean you are weak, or flawed, or a bad mom. In fact, it’s quite common for a lot of moms to feel a little sad and out of it for a few weeks while hormones fly around and a new kind of life takes over. The American Psychology Association (APA) reports about one in seven women experience postpartum depression, which is much more serious than just the “baby blues.” While the baby blues are pretty short-lived and rarely intense, postpartum can last for months and requires prompt treatment for good results. Here’s a look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment of postpartum depression, or PPD.
The major physiological changes in the postpartum body may have a lot to do with the development of related depression. Specifically, after a woman gives birth, there are massive drops in many hormone levels. Similarly, the postpartum metabolism, blood pressure, and even immune system may face a transitional period leading to fatigue and mood swings.
Furthermore, the incredible changes taking place in the weeks following birth. This is usually accompanied by a wildly irregular schedule, which can put new young mothers or older than average mothers at risk, especially those without a good support system. Mothers with special challenges or complications can also have an increased risk of PPD. Finally, mothers of children who cry more than normal or have special needs from birth are exceptionally susceptible to PPD.
When you tack on additional stressors, like financial anxiety, lack of sleep, a sense of losing control, and a changing romantic relationship, PPD becomes even more likely. Women who have faced mood or mental disorders previously may be at a higher risk than other moms.
Again, while the baby blues are relatively common, they usually go away in a few weeks. PPD is much more severe and persists much longer, eventually interfering with the mother’s ability to take care of the baby or herself. Many symptoms are similar to those of general depression. According to the APA, signs of PPD may include:
- insomnia or extreme fatigue,
- change in appetite,
- extreme mood swings,
- self-imposed isolation,
- difficulty concentrating,
- remembering things,
- lack of sex drive,
- feelings of guilt or inadequacy,
- and a general unhappiness with most aspects of life.
Additionally, PPD may be mixed up with a lot of fear -- fear of being alone with your newborn or that you aren’t a good mom -- or with complete disinterest in the new baby. In some cases, PPD may lead to thoughts of harming the self or baby. If this happens, get help immediately.
If you aren’t sure if things are normal, signs you need to seek help include:
- Symptoms that last longer than two weeks
- Symptoms grow steadily worse
- Thoughts of harm
- Difficulty caring for the self, baby, or home
If you think you may be suffering from PPD, ask for help now. Seek a licensed counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. With one of these licensed mental healthcare professionals, patients can devise strategies for managing feelings of depression and start getting back to life. This may include various forms of talk therapy, prescription medication, or group therapy. Finding support can make a huge difference in cases of PPD, whether through support groups or getting more help taking care of home and baby from loved ones.
PPD vs. Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is much rarer and much more severe than PPD. Symptoms typically manifest within days of childbirth and include paranoia, hallucinations, confusion or disorientation, and delusional beliefs. Actual attempts to harm the self or her child may occur, and it is crucial to seek help now.
APA Recommended Sources of Assistance:
Postpartum Health Alliance
For immediate help contact the San Diego Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Postpartum Support International
(800) 944-4PPD or (800) 944-4773
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
(888) 333-AFSP (2377)