Why Do You Get It
There are many causes, including:
Hormones. Your hormone levels rise when youâre pregnant. After your baby is born, they drop suddenly. This quick change can trigger depression in some women.
Stress and problems. If you didnât want to be pregnant, or your partner and family donât help you care for your baby, youâre more likely to become depressed as a new mom. The condition is also more common among women with money issues, problems with drugs or alcohol, or other big sources of stress.
Very young women who arenât prepared to care for or support a baby are also at risk.
What Are The Common Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
Common postpartum symptoms include disorienting feelings of anxiety, irritability, lethargy, or confusion that often lead to frequent crying, sleep and appetite concerns, and in extreme cases, thoughts of self-harm and infanticide. In about half of all cases, symptoms actually begin during pregnancy in many others, they may not manifest for weeks after delivery, and some experts suggest that doctors should consider postpartum depression as a diagnosis anywhere from six months before birth until a year after.
Postpartum Depression Causes And Risk Factors
If you have PPD, itâs not because you did anything wrong. Experts think it happens for many reasons, and those can be different for different people. Some things that can raise the chances of postpartum depression include:
- A history of depression prior to becoming pregnant, or during pregnancy
- Age at time of pregnancy
- Ambivalence about the pregnancy
- Family history of mood disorders
- Going through an extremely stressful event, like a job loss or health crisis
- Having a child with special needs or health problems
- Having twins or triplets
- Living alone
Thereâs no one cause of postpartum depression, but these physical and emotional issues may contribute:
- Hormones. The dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone after you give birth may play a role. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply and make you feel tired, sluggish and depressed.
- Lack of sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems.
- Anxiety. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn.
- Self-image. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity, or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.
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Helping A New Mother With Postpartum Depression
If your loved one is experiencing postpartum depression, the best thing you can do is to offer support. Give her a break from childcare duties, provide a listening ear, and be patient and understanding.
You also need to take care of yourself. Dealing with the needs of a new baby is hard for the partner as well as the mother. And if your significant other is depressed, you are dealing with two major stressors.
Who Gets Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can affect any woman but some may be more at risk for developing it. Women who have had any kind of depression in the past or who have a family history of depression are more likely to get postpartum depression.
Other things that might increase the chance of postpartum depression include serious stress during the pregnancy, medical problems during the pregnancy or after birth, and lack of support at home.
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How To Sleep Better If You Have Postpartum Depression
Among the many risk factors for postpartum depression, sleep deprivation is one of the most straightforward to treat. Though life with a young infant requires some major adjustments, you can set yourself up for better sleep by following healthy sleep hygiene practices wherever possible. These include habits like getting sunlight early in the day, eating well, and getting regular exercise. You may find it helpful to go for a walk with your baby every morning.
Establishing a regular sleep schedule is difficult when youre beholden to your babys shifting sleep patterns. Most doctors recommend seizing the opportunity to sleep whenever the baby is sleeping, even if this means napping during the day. However, some research has found that sleep quality may be even more important than total sleep time when it comes to postpartum depression.
During an ideal night of sleep, we complete a balanced cycle through various sleep stages. The most important stages, slow-wave and rapid eye movement sleep, tend to occur after we have already been asleep for a while. Sleeping for only short periods at a time and waking up every time the baby fusses makes it virtually impossible to complete these restorative sleep cycles.
Can New Fathers Have Postpartum Depression
Yes. As many as a quarter of men will experience postpartum depression during their childs first year of life. Younger fathers, those with a history of depression, and those experiencing financial stress, appear to be more likely to be diagnosed, and some studies suggest a link between lower levels of testosterone and postpartum depression. But they tend to respond to symptoms differently than women: They are more likely to shut down or isolate themselves and less likely to ask for help or seek therapy. Experts urge couples to seek treatment for postpartum depression together, regardless of which of them is experiencing symptoms.
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What Is Samhsa’s National Helpline
SAMHSAs National Helpline, , or TTY: is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
Also visit the online treatment locator.
How Can I Help A Loved One
Postpartum depression can be a difficult experience for everyone. Most people expect the arrival of a child to be happy and joyful, and postpartum depression is none of those things. Its important to know that postpartum depression is no ones fault, but you can play a big role in a loved ones recovery.
Here are some tips on supporting a loved one who experiences postpartum depression:
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How Is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed
Schedule a visit with your doctor if you suspect you have postpartum depression. Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and feelings. He or she will ask you how long you have been feeling depressed. Your doctor may ask you to complete a questionnaire about your depression or order a blood test to check your hormone levels.
Do I Need Health Insurance To Receive This Service
The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, we will refer you to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.
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Who Does It Affect
Postpartum depression can affect anyone. Although its more commonly reported by mothers, it can affect any new parentsboth moms and dadsand it can affect parents who adopt. Postpartum depression is likely caused by many different factors that work together, including family history, biology, personality, life experiences, and the environment .
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.
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Are Some Women More At Risk Of Postpartum Depression
Yes. You may be more at risk of postpartum depression if you:3
- Have a personal history of depression or bipolar disorder
- Have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder
- Do not have support from family and friends
- Were depressed during pregnancy
- Lose your appetite
- Have trouble sleeping
The baby blues usually go away in 3 to 5 days after they start. The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe. Postpartum depression usually begins within the first month after childbirth, but it can begin during pregnancy or for up to a year after birth.5
Postpartum depression needs to be treated by a doctor or nurse.
Symptoms And Causes Of Postpartum Depression
Many women who appeared to function with impressive calm and efficiency prior to the birth of their child may find themselves baffled and disoriented by the onset of postpartum depression. Some research suggests that PPD sufferers were always more susceptible to anxiety than others, and the stressor of their babys arrival activated their innate susceptibility. But for new mothers, social isolation and a weak support network have also been shown to increase the likelihood of developing anxiety after childbirth.
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Differentiating Between Ppd And Baby Blues
If you notice signs of postpartum depression, be sure to first consider the level of which the woman may be experiencing these symptoms. Postpartum baby blues is a very common set of symptoms felt by many mothers after giving birth. Symptoms like crying, tiredness and restlessness are generally to be expected after experiencing childbirth.
When symptoms last longer than a couple weeks and worsen or intensify to the point of it affecting her quality of life, then you may be seeing signs of something more severe than the baby blues. Making this distinction between the two will help you and your loved one to be able to seek the appropriate treatment as soon as possible before the condition worsens.
Sleep Deprivation And Postpartum Depression
Dr. Nilong Vyas, Pediatrician
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Sleep deprivation is an unavoidable part of being a new mother. The sudden shifts in hormone levels, accumulated fatigue from pregnancy, and round-the-clock demands of caring for a new baby can take their toll, and its common for mothers to experience a dip in energy and mood during the first few weeks after giving birth.
A majority of new mothers experience the so-called baby blues. For approximately one in eight women, these negative feelings become a persistent condition known as postpartum depression. Distinguishing between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression can be difficult, especially as one condition can aggravate the other. In fact, fatigue is one of the criteria that doctors normally consider when diagnosing depression.
Knowing how to identify postpartum depression is important, as its a serious condition that may not go away on its own without proper treatment. A better understanding of the relation between sleep deprivation and postpartum depression can help you recognize when to seek help from a doctor.
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If You Have Ppd What Can You Do To Help You Feel Better
Heres what you can do to help the treatment from your provider work better:
Stay healthy and fit.
- Do something active every day. Go for a walk or get back to the gym.
- Eat healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean meats. Try to eat fewer sweets and salty snacks.
- Get as much rest as you can. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Dont drink alcohol. This includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can slow your body down and make you feel more depressed. It also can interact with the medicine youre taking for PPD. Its never a good idea to drink alcohol if youre breastfeeding. This is because you can pass alcohol to your baby through your breast milk.
- Dont take street drugs. These affect the way your body works and can cause problems with the medicine youre taking for PPD. You also can pass street drugs to your baby through breast milk.
Ask for and accept help.
- Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your partner, family and friends how youre feeling.
- Take time for yourself. Ask someone you trust to watch the baby so you can get out of the house. Visit a friend, get outside or do something you enjoy. Plan for some time alone with your partner.
- Let others help around the house. Ask your friends and family to watch the baby, help with housekeeping or go grocery shopping. Dont be afraid to tell them what you need.
Reduce your stress.
Causes & Risk Factors
There is no single cause of depression . Physical, hormonal, social, psychological and emotional factors may all play a part in triggering the illness. This is known as the biopsychosocial model of depression, and is accepted by most researchers and clinicians. The factor or factors that trigger PPD vary from one woman to another. For example, sleep deprivation resulting from having a new baby can make a woman vulnerable to other factors that trigger depression.
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Stillbirth And Pregnancy Loss
In the United States, around 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth, after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This may increase the risk of postpartum depression.
Experts report that 14.8% of people who experience pregnancy loss have postpartum depression, compared with 8.3% of those with regular deliveries.
If symptoms of depression last 2 weeks or longer within 1 year of giving birth, a person should receive medical attention. This is also crucial for anyone who is having trouble caring for themselves or their baby.
The doctor will ask questions about symptoms and medical histories. They may also request blood tests to rule out other causes of depression.
Treatment for postpartum depression is essential for the well-being of the parent and their newborn. The sooner a person receives it, the sooner they are likely to recover. Treatment is effective in most cases.
Once they have identified the issue, the doctor usually prescribes a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Tips for helping to support recovery include:
- acknowledging the problem
Support groups can reduce the feelings of isolation and provide tools and helpful strategies.
Talking To Your Health Care Provider About Your Mental Health
Communicating well with your doctor health care provider can improve your care and help you both make good choices about your health. Read our Tips for Talking With Your Health Care Provider to help prepare for and get the most out of your visit. For additional resources, including questions to ask your doctor, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
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Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
- What are the baby blues?
About 23 days after childbirth, some women begin to feel depressed, anxious, and upset. They may feel angry with the new baby, their partners, or their other children. They also may:
Cry for no clear reason
Have trouble sleeping, eating, and making choices
Question whether they can handle caring for a baby
These feelings, often called the baby blues, may come and go in the first few days after childbirth.
The baby blues usually get better within a few days or 12 weeks without any treatment.
Women with postpartum depression have intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or despair that prevent them from being able to do their daily tasks.
Postpartum depression can occur up to 1 year after having a baby, but it most commonly starts about 13 weeks after childbirth.
Postpartum depression probably is caused by a combination of factors. These factors include the following:
Changes in hormone levelsLevels of estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth. These changes may trigger depression in the same way that smaller changes in hormone levels trigger mood swings and tension before menstrual periods.
National Womens Health Information Center
How To Prevent Ppd
Although it is difficult to reliably predict which women in the general population will experience postpartum mood disturbance, it is possible to identify certain subgroups of women who are more vulnerable to postpartum affective illness. Current research indicates that prophylactic interventions may be instituted near or at the time of delivery to decrease the risk of postpartum illness. Several studies demonstrate that women with histories of bipolar disorder or puerperal psychosis benefit from prophylactic treatment with lithium instituted either prior to delivery or no later than the first 48 hours postpartum. For women with histories of postpartum depression, several studies have described a beneficial effect of prophylactic antidepressant administered after delivery. Patients with postpartum psychiatric illness are offered a variety of services by clinicians with particular expertise in this area:
- Clinical evaluation for postpartum mood and anxiety disorders
- Medication management
For the latest information on postpartum psychiatric disorders, please visit our blog.
How do I get an appointment?
Consultations regarding treatment options can be scheduled by calling our intake coordinator at 617-724-7792.
If you are pregnant or planning pregnancy, you may be interested in enrolling in the National Pregnancy Registry. You may find more information on this registry here. To view the list of our other active studies please visit our research page.
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