Postpartum depression (PPD) is more common than people think. It’s so common, in fact, that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that around 1 in 9 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. However, because of the stigma surrounding mental health issues, the CDC also believes that, if accurately reported, the numbers could be as high as 1 in 5 women.
Postpartum Depression Vs. Baby Blues
When people hear the term “Postpartum Depression,” they often just believe that it is the same thing as the baby blues. In fact, the two are very different. A woman’s hormones fluctuate following a pregnancy. Add in sleep deprivation and the huge life-changing event of adding a new person to the family, and this leaves a new mother at risk for feeling low, overwhelmed and easily irritated. The majority of moms will experience at least one or more symptoms of the baby blues after childbirth. Baby blues are normal and usually only last a few weeks; however, if your symptoms last longer or become increasingly “dark,” you could be suffering from postpartum depression instead.
Postpartum depression is not like baby blues. With depression, anxiety may be out of control, interfering with the new mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby. Some women experience thoughts and feelings of worthlessness and guilt, experience anxiety attacks, and feel that they are not bonding with their new child.
Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression
When you don’t notice relief from your baby blues, it’s important to watch for other signs that almost always indicated postpartum depression.
Guilt or sadness - These feelings can consume your entire well-being. It’s normal to feel upset once in a while, but if it happens consistently, then it’s important to seek help.
Losing interest in things you loved - Think back to what you truly enjoyed before you had your child. Do you still enjoy it? Whether it’s painting, being with friends, or anything else. If you notice a change in your habits and mood, along with distancing yourself from things you once enjoyed, that is a sign of postpartum depression.
You never sleep - Sure, when you have a new baby, it's not always easy to get sleep. However, if you still don’t sleep when your child is napping or even sleeping at all at night, something is up that needs to be addressed.
You have thoughts of harming yourself - There is postpartum depression and then there is a more advanced form of this type of depression known as postpartum psychosis. If you have any suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your child, it’s important to seek the help of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a health care professional promptly.
Major stressful changes - If you have been fighting with your partner, a family member, or going through another sad time, it can trigger postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
If you experience any of the warning signs, it’s beneficial to seek out professional help early on so you can start early on your road to healing. When postpartum depression hits, you may feel a wave of symptoms. You may feel all or just some of the symptoms.
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your child
- Excessive crying
- Isolating yourself from family and friends
- Loss of appetite
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- No energy
- Irritability or anger
- Feeling unworthy
- Anxiety and panic attacks
It’s important to keep in mind that even if you do experience some of the symptoms, you’re not alone. Hormones are up and down until they level out after pregnancy. Your body just went through a major ordeal. Additionally, never feel ashamed for needing to get help. The best thing you can do for yourself and for your child is to seek help. You will learn the tools to cope and get back to feeling like yourself again.
What Are the Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression?
New mothers should be aware of the risk factors so they can be prepared for what’s possible to come. It can be a little easier when you’re prepared and recognize the symptoms right away so you can get help sooner. Early intervention is the key to overall success. You are at a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression if:
- You have bipolar disorder
- You have a history of anxiety or depression either during pregnancy or at any time.
- You’ve experienced it after a previous pregnancy
- You have been under stress within the last year
- You have a family member or multiple with depression, mood disorders, or anxiety.
- Your baby has special needs or health problems
- You’re having difficulty connecting with your spouse
- You’re experiencing financial problems
- You don’t have a good support system
- You struggle with breastfeeding
- Your pregnancy was unplanned
Is Postpartum Depression Preventable?
If you have a history of depression at any point in your life, especially postpartum depression, it’s critical that you tell your doctor if you plan to become pregnant. You can also let your doctor know as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
During pregnancy, your doctor will monitor you closely to watch for signs of depression. The health care provider will have you fill out a depression-screening questionnaire at some point during your pregnancy, and again after you deliver your baby. Mild depression may be managed with counseling, support groups, or other type of therapy. In some cases, antidepressants may be used, and there are some that are safe during pregnancy.
Once your baby is born, your doctor will suggest an early postpartum checkup to screen for signs of postpartum depression. It’s important to go early if your doctor recommends it because the earlier this depression is detected, the sooner you can start enjoying your life again. If you had postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy, your doctor will likely suggest taking an antidepressant immediately after you have your baby. Taking an antidepressant right away can help diminish the chronic symptoms you would otherwise face.
When to See a Doctor and Complications for Not Seeking Help
It’s natural to feel embarrassed to admit you need help. However, if your sadness goes beyond the “baby blues,” it’s important to talk to someone. If your symptoms don’t go away after 2-4 weeks, get worse, make it hard to take care of your child, or you get thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, then it’s important to make an appointment as soon as possible.
Left untreated, postpartum depression can last for months, or even turn into a chronic depressive disorder. Untreated depression affects not only the new mom but everyone around her. Depression can also impact marriages or relationships with your partner in a negative way. Some studies show that within a family, postpartum depression in the mother can increase the father’s chances of becoming depressed. Although it’s not talked about a lot, fathers are always at risk for depression after the birth of a baby.
Untreated postpartum depression can also lead to emotional and behavioral problems in children. A child may experience eating and sleeping troubles, along with delays in language development. It is time to talk about postpartum depression. To be open about the problem can help to reduce the stigma of asking for help. The truth is, you don’t have to worry about facing this alone. Your doctor at The Woman’s Clinic will help you get the help you need. At TWC, we treat the whole woman and think of our patients as family.
If you’d like further screening or to talk to a professional, please request an appointment with The Woman’s Clinic.