Who Does It Affect
Postpartum depression is more common than you may think, affecting 812% of mothers. First-time mothers aren’t the only ones who experience this depression. It can also affect mothers who have already had children as well as adoptive mothers. Some studies have shown that partners can also experience postpartum depression
While postpartum depression can affect anyone, there are some factors that may put you at higher risk:
History of mood or anxiety problems
Family history of major depression or mental illness
Medical complications for you or your baby
Other stresses may increase these risks such as:
Emotional stress: After giving birth, women may feel overwhelmed with responsibility, less attractive physically and sexually, anxious from changes in routine or lifestyle, and guilty because of social pressures to be a perfect mother
Physical stress: In addition to hormonal changes, common physical changes after labour include weight changes, exhaustion and soreness
Stressors such as tension in a marriage, loss of a job or a lack of support system can also play a role. Even though adoptive mothers, partners and fathers can experience postpartum depression, hormonal changes during pregnancy and after birth are thought to contribute to postpartum depression in some women.
Are There Natural Remedies For Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is serious and not something you should attempt to treat without a doctors input.
Along with medical treatment, natural remedies such as exercise and getting the right amount of sleep can help improve symptoms. Massage, meditation, and other mindfulness practices may help you feel better. Maintain a diet high in nutrients, but low in processed foods. If youre not getting the nutrients you need in your diet, ask your doctor to recommend the right dietary supplements.
Medications For Postpartum Depression
You and your doctor will need to make a careful decision about the use and choice of antidepressants if youâre breastfeeding. Some antidepressants are secreted in small amounts in breast milk. Other medications, such as lithium, are more controversial in breastfeeding because of concerns that they may cause infant toxicity, although there is debate about whether lithium poses a real risk.
Talk to your doctor to determine if the benefits of antidepressant therapy outweigh the risk. If you take an antidepressant, youâll probably be advised to take it for at least 6 months to a year to avoid a relapse and then to taper it off or continue it, depending on your symptoms and history.
Also, if youâve had a previous episode of postpartum depression, your doctor may suggest that you take preventive medicine shortly after the baby is born or during pregnancy.
Most antidepressants donât pose any major risks to a developing fetus, although all medications have potential risks. Some antidepressants, including the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors Celexa, Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac, have been associated with cardiac and cranial defects when taken early in the pregnancy. Older reports that some tricyclic antidepressants may cause limb deformities have not been confirmed in larger, more modern studies.
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Help Your Partner Recognize The Change Youre Seeing In Them
Take a moment to learn how the baby blues differ from postpartum depression and anxiety. You can also see what a postpartum depression screening questionnaire looks like here. Thats a tool doctors can use to determine if your partners symptoms match up with postpartum depression.
If you think your partner might have postpartum depression or anxiety, help them recognize the change in their personality or behavior. It is important to do this with concrete examples. For example, say your partner normally enjoys a weekly phone conversation with her sister but lately shes been skipping it to sit alone with the baby. In this instance you could say, Ive noticed you havent talked to your sister in a while. How are you feeling? This can help open up the conversation in a non-accusatory way.
What Can We Do About Postpartum Depression
- Shame and fear
- What to do
Getting depressed after your baby arrives isnt a rare malady. If youre a new mother suffering from this condition, youre hardly alone.
According to Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice-chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at West Virginia University, up to 80 per cent of new moms experience the temporary emotional slump of “postpartum blues.” A smaller but significant number 10 to 40 per cent fall victim to clinical postpartum depression.
Postpartum psychosis which sometimes involves behaviours such as hallucinations and delusions is much less common, occurring after about one in 1,000 deliveries.1 But it has the potential for extremely serious consequences.
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What Exactly Is Postpartum Depression
Postpartum refers to the period following childbirth. Postpartum depression is a severe and long-lasting type of depression linked to this time.2, 10 While postpartum depression, or PPD, is frequently described as depression that starts within four weeks of babys birth, symptoms can arise at any time within the first year postpartum, and possibly even before delivery.2, 3, 10 Without treatment, theres no telling how long it will last, but it will not necessarily go away on its own or by wishing it would, and it can have serious consequences for mom and baby.3
Catching Postpartum Depression Quickly
Because postpartum depression affects the health of the woman, her infant, and her entire family, it is very important to screen for postpartum depression risk. Most obstetricians are now implementing some type of screening tool during the postpartum checkup. Screening is very important because studies have shown that many women with postpartum depression are ashamed of their symptoms and are afraid of the social stigma associated with the diagnosis.
Although symptoms of postpartum depression can vary, the typical symptoms include:
- sleep disturbances
- feeling overwhelmed
- preoccupation with babys health or feeding
Making the diagnosis of postpartum depression is based on more than just the presence of these symptoms. Some of these can be normal, especially after a difficult sleepless night caring for a newborn. It is the intensity of the symptoms and how they affect a womans ability to adjust and cope with life stressors that are key to making the diagnosis of postpartum depression.
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How Do I Know If I Have Postpartum Depression
Despite the fact that postpartum depression has been known about for a long time, many experts believe it isnât being properly diagnosed. As knowledge about postpartum depression grows, more health care professionals are looking for risk factors in their patients as early as their first prenatal care visit.
If a woman is at risk, their doctor can evaluate their moods throughout the pregnancy. After a woman gives birth, they and those close to them should watch for symptoms of depression. Their doctor should look for such signs at their 6-week postpartum visit, as well.
Thereâs no blood test or body scan that shows you have this mood disorder. Instead, your doctor will ask certain questions about your state of mind. The most common PPD screening tests are:
If you have symptoms of postpartum depression, your doctor will evaluate their severity, including asking about whether you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. Theyâll also ask about other mood-related symptoms to determine whether you have postpartum depression or another condition, such as bipolar disorder or postpartum psychosis. Your thyroid levels also may be checked to make sure the gland is working the way it should. Hypothyroidism can cause the same symptoms as postpartum depression.
Treatment Of Postpartum Depression
Assistance to mothers with depressive disorder is determined by its severity: in mild cases, consultations with a psychologist or psychotherapist are sufficient in moderate symptoms, psychotherapy sessions and drug correction are recommended in severe illness, hospitalization, intensive drug therapy and psychotherapy are required. The whole range of medical and psychological support includes:
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How To Seek Help For Postpartum Depression
If you are worried that you or someone you know may have postpartum depression, or have further questions, call or text the Postpartum Support International hotline at 1-800-944-4773 or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline at 1-800-662-HELP .
As a family medicine physician, I am a strong supporter of the patient-physician relationship that is possible with a primary care physician. That said, any medical doctor like your OB-GYN, babys pediatrician or family doctor, or in more extreme cases, the emergency department, will be a good source to reach, says Dr. Werner.
How Doespostpartum Depression Differ From The Baby Blues
After childbirth, a womans body undergoes a massive hormonal shift. The female hormones estrogen and progesterone peak during the last trimester of pregnancy, and then plummet back to normal pre-pregnancy levels after delivery.2 New mothers also undergo dramatic changes to their lifestyle The difficulties of this transition and the hormonal changes in the body are thought to play a role in the development of baby blues and postpartum depression.1
The baby blues is a short-term effect of the hormonal fluctuations that begin in the days immediately following childbirth. As many as 50 to 75% of new moms experience it. The baby blues can cause mood swings, feelings of sadness and anxiety, crying spells, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping, but these feelings usually start to subside within 3 to 5 days and are gone in two weeks.
Unlike the baby blues, postpartum depression is a severe, more persistent condition that needs treatment.2, 10 By various estimates, it affects between 15 and 20% of new moms.3, 6, 10 Causes likely go deeper than the usual range of hormonal and lifestyle changes .
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Tip : Take Care Of Yourself
One of the best things you can do to relieve or avoid postpartum depression is to take care of yourself. The more you care for your mental and physical well-being, the better youll feel. Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way towards helping you feel like yourself again.
Skip the housework Make yourself and your baby the priority. Give yourself permission to concentrate on yourself and your baby there is more work involved in this 24/7 job than in holding down a full-time job.
Ease back into exercise. Studies show that exercise may be just as effective as medication when it comes to treating depression, so the sooner you get back up and moving, the better. No need to overdo it: a 30-minute walk each day will work wonders. Stretching exercises such as those found in yoga have shown to be especially effective.
Practice mindfulness meditation. Research supports the effectiveness of meditation for making you feel calmer and more energized. It can also help you to become more aware of what you need and what you feel.
Dont skimp on sleep. A full eight hours may seem like an unattainable luxury when youre dealing with a newborn, but poor sleep makes depression worse. Do what you can to get plenty of restfrom enlisting the help of your partner or family members to catching naps when you can.
Get out in the sunshine. Sunlight lifts your mood, so try to get at least 10 to 15 minutes of sun per day.
What Is Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, is a depressive condition that impacts some new mothers. For this group, its a side effect or complication of giving birth that impacts the way they see the world and process their lives after giving birth.
While those who suffer from the baby blues feel mood swings, anxiety, and sadness, new mothers with postpartum depression feel each of these emotions severely. They also have a hard time bonding with the baby, struggle to think clearly, withdraw from friends and family, and are concerned about their ability to raise a well-adjusted child as a new parent. After going through major life changes, some also become anxious, frustrated, and irritable.
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What Causes Postpartum Depression
Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are the highest theyll ever be. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly drop back to normal, pre-pregnancy levels. Researchers think this sudden change in hormone levels may lead to depression.2 This is similar to hormone changes before a womans period but involves much more extreme swings in hormone levels.
Levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate how your body uses and stores energy from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms of depression. A simple blood test can tell whether this condition is causing your symptoms. If so, your doctor can prescribe thyroid medicine.
Other feelings may contribute to postpartum depression. Many new mothers say they feel:
- Tired after labor and delivery
- Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
- Overwhelmed with a new baby
- Doubts about their ability to be a good mother
- Stress from changes in work and home routines
- An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
- Grief about loss of who they were before having the baby
- Less attractive
- A lack of free time
These feelings are common among new mothers. But postpartum depression is a serious health condition and can be treated. Postpartum depression is not a regular or expected part of being a new mother.
Does Postpartum Depression Qualify For A Disability
Women who need certain accommodations after pregnancy due to postpartum depression may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disability Act . The individual affected with postpartum depression can be permitted certain accommodations with employers. Postpartum depression awareness month takes place in May.
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How Can I Help My Wife
If you are the partner of a woman suffering from PPD, you can help by encouraging her to seek help from a medical professional. Your goal should be to reduce her stress and anxiety in any way you can, while also paying attention to your own mental health. Taking on extra responsibilities can helpwhatever will allow her to make more time for sleep.
Its hard when you have a newborn, but if you can strategize to help with feedings overnight to make sure that mom is able to get enough sleep, that can be a way to try to protect against some of those mood disturbances, Dr. Taljan says.
Causes Of Postnatal Depression
The cause of postnatal depression is not completely clear.
There are a number of things that may make you more likely to have postnatal depression. These include:
- a history of mental health problems, particularly depression, earlier in life
- a history of mental health problems during pregnancy
- having no close family or friends to support you
- a difficult relationship with your partner
- recent stressful life events, such as a bereavement
- physical or psychological trauma, such as domestic violence
- having the “baby blues”
Even if you do not have any of these, having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression.
It often takes time to adapt to becoming a new parent. Looking after a small baby can be stressful and exhausting.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression symptoms may differ from person to person and can range from mild to moderate to severe.
Many common symptoms of PPD are similar to other types of depression:5
- Feeling down or depressed for most of the day for several weeks or longer
- Feeling distant and withdrawn from family and friends
- A loss of interest in activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Feeling tired most of the day
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Having feelings of anxiety, worry, panic attacks, or racing thoughts
Postpartum depression may also cause:6
- Crying more often than usual
- Feelings of anger
- Feeling numb or disconnected from the baby
- Worry that you will hurt the baby
- Feeling guilty about not being a good mom or doubting your ability to care for the baby
Postpartum Depression By The Numbers
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 20% of new mothers experience one or more symptoms of postpartum depression, that number may be higher or lower based on where you live, your age, your risk factors, and your race/ethnicity.6
In some states, as many as one in five women experience PPD. You can view your states prevalence using the CDCs Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System .
- Asian women
- Women younger than 19 years old
What may be even more of a surprise is that men can develop postpartum depression, too . According to a study of several thousand people in the UK, and published in JAMA Pediatrics, one study, an estimated 4% of fathers experience depression in the first year after their child is born. Fathers who are young or have a history of depression may be more at risk. Both men and women need treatment to alleviate depression in the postpartum period, and the potential treatments are similar for both genders.
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What To Say To Someone With Postpartum Depression
When a woman is experiencing postpartum depression, it can seem like she will never feel like herself again. Remind her that this is not true. Tell her that these things she is feeling are only her symptoms, not her. They wont last forever and with treatment, she can overcome this struggle. It will take time, but postpartum depression is a medical condition, so make sure you remind her of this when she is feeling discouraged.