What is Postpartum Depression?

What is Postpartum Depression and why we should distinct it from Postpartum Baby Blues and Postpartum Psychosis? – Summary

Postpartum Depression appears after giving birth, because the birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from joy, excitement to anxiety, but it can cause something unexpected: depression. It’s common for women to experience “baby blues” – feeling stressed, sad, anxious, lonely, tired – following their baby’s birth. Many new moms experience the “postpartum baby blues” after childbirth, which includes mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues can typically appear after two-three days after giving birth and can last for up to two weeks. The Postpartum baby blues are lasting only a few days to a week or two after the baby is born, the symptoms are the following: mood swings; anxiety; sadness; irritability; feeling overwhelmed; crying; reduced concentration; appetite problem; trouble sleeping.

There are some moms, who can experience some more severe, long-lasting form of depression known Postpartum Depression. This kind of depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.

The PPD can develop because of a change in hormone levels after childbirth. There are a few risk factors for PPD: previous experience of depression or anxiety; family depression or mental illness; stress involved caring for a new born and managing new life changes; having a challenging baby who cries more than usual, is hard to comfort, or whose sleep and  hunger needs are irregular and  hard predict;  having a baby with special needs (premature birth, medical complications, illness), first-time motherhood, very young motherhood, or older motherhood; other emotional stressors, such as death of a loved one or family problems; financial or employment problems; isolation and lack of social support.

After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop and this leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. Many mothers are unable to recover from giving birth. Sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of Postpartum Depression.

The symptoms of PPD that are the warning signs of PPD are the following: a loss of pleasure or interest in things you used to enjoy, including sex; eating much more, or less, than you usually do; anxiety – all, or most of the time – panic attacks; racing, scary thoughts (like hurting the baby, or suicide); feeling guilty or worthless – like blaming yourself; excessive irritability, anger or agitation, mood swings; sadness, crying uncontrollably for very long periods of time; fear of not being a good mother; fear of being left alone with the baby; misery; inability to sleep, sleeping too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep; disinterests in the baby, family and friends; difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decision; thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby.  If this warning signs or symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, this mothers may need to get help.

The Postpartum Psychosis is a rare condition that typically develops within the first week after delivery, the signs and symptoms are even more severe. The signs and symptoms may include: confusion and disorientation; obsessive thoughts about the baby; hallucinations and delusion; sleep disturbances; paranoia; attempts to harm themselves or the baby.

Left untreated PPD can interfere with mother-child bonding and cause family problems. For mothers PPD can last for months or longer, sometimes becoming chronic depressive disorder. Even when treated, PPD increases a woman’s risk of future episodes of major depression. PPD may affect the fathers. The disorder can have a ripple effect, causing emotional strain for everyone close to a new baby. When a new mother is depressed, the risk in the father to develop depression may also increase. And new dads are already at increased risk of depression, whether or not their partners are affected. Children of mothers who have untreated PPD are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems, such as eating and sleeping difficulties, excessive crying, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The diagnosis of PPD is formed by a doctor and his questions. The questions and talk are about the feelings, thoughts and mental health to distinguish between a short-term case of postpartum baby-blues or a more severe form of depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, which is often used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions. The treatment and recovery time vary on the severity of depression and the individual needs. The Baby Blues are usually fade on their own within a few days to one to two weeks. In the meantime specialist recommend to get as much sleep and rest as they can; accept help from family and friends; connect with other new moms; create time to care about themselves; avoid alcohol and recreational drug, which can make mood swings worse.

PPD is treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both. The psychotherapy may help in finding better ways to cope with the feelings, solve problems, set realistic goals and responding to situations in a positive way. Sometimes family or relationship therapy also helps. The doctor may recommend antidepressant, but while the new moms are breast-feeding the substance which contains the antidepressant can enter in the breast milk. Collaborating with the doctor can weigh the potential risk and benefits of specific antidepressant. With appropriate treatment, PPD usually goes away with six months. In some cases, PPD lasts much longer, becoming chronic depression. It’s important to continue the treatment even the affected mom feels better, because stopping to early may lead to a relapse.






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