Postpartum depression is described as the depression that often hits women several days to weeks after giving birth. In rare instances, it has made women completely unstable and unable to care for their newborn. Other women feel a nagging sense of uncertainty amongst a wave of emotion that doesn’t seem to fit in with what they should be feeling. Even more common is a phenomenon known as the baby blues, which simply put is a milder form of depression.
Depression after pregnancy can be blamed on the hormonal surges and let downs that often accommodate labor and delivery. It is often hereditary and more often undiagnosed which can make a woman feel like she is sailing in a sea of despair. Because women feel despondent and distrustful of discussing their feelings with other people, they suffer in silence which can steal away the miraculous moments of bonding and joy with their baby. However, it is nothing to be ashamed of and it is more common in some form, than not.
The signs and symptoms of post partum depression are very similar to regular depression. Tiredness, fatigue, agitation, frustration, unexplainable crying and mood swings are often first indicators. Many new moms begin to operate like robots feeling very little enthusiasm or pleasure for the things that they are doing. They may lose their appetite and experience a dramatic loss of energy. Women who suffer from post partum depression may not be socially interactive after birth and may with draw themselves from family and friends, not really understanding why. It is often associated with feelings of guilt or remorse that may stem from a complicated pregnancy or labor and around 3/4ths of all women experience negative feelings toward their baby. This seems to compound the guilt and feelings of worthlessness as a mother. What is important to understand is that not all women feel the same thing and often it is important for family members to intercede so that they can help the new mom overcome this depression. When women seek treatment, success rates of complete recovery are upwards of 90%, which is very consoling.
Most women with post partum depression are treated using medication, therapy or a gentle combination of both. There are depression medications that are safe to give to breastfeeding mothers with no ill effects seen with the baby. This means that you can get well and breastfeed your baby, which is also beneficial to post partum hormonal imbalances. The key is finding treatment from your doctor and discussing your needs with your OBGYN postpartum.
There are certain risk factors associated with post partum depression. If you suffer from depression normally, are under 20 years of age at delivery, have mood or anxiety disorders, drink alcohol, smoke or use drugs had an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, complications during pregnancy or have relationship issues with the baby’s father you are more prone to suffer PPD. Many moms who had premature deliveries or multiple births are also at an increased risk of PPD. Other causes can be thyroid dysfunction after delivery and many doctors routinely check this if you are suffering from mild or extreme depression. Low thyroid hormones can cause the same physiological effects on mood and balance as depression and are easily treated with medications. Even if you have never had a problem before, pregnancy may have altered your thyroid function.
There really are no clinical tests to determine depression. Most often, it can be diagnosed with a simple questionnaire and by talking to your doctor. At the same time, many women feel ashamed because of their erratic and often unreasonable thoughts and may try to hide their emotions from family members. Some moms worry that if there depression is revealed, they will have their baby taken away from them, and this can be heightened if family situations are less than desirable. The truth is that post partum depression is a condition, proven by science and seeking help ensures that you care for your baby above all else. It also can catch the PPD before it worsens and you inadvertently harm your self or the baby.
Baby Blues versus PPD
The baby blues are another, milder form of Post-partum depression. They are characterized by many of the same symptoms and they usually present themselves right after birth. Staggering statistics indicate that as many as half of all women have the baby blues, which includes symptoms of tearfulness, irritation and restlessness. You may feel anxious much of the time and nervous or unable to sleep. The major difference is that this seems to disappear in just a few weeks as your hormones begin to rebalance themselves. Most women who suffer from the baby blues do not have to seek any medical treatment and can resume their normal emotions within just a few weeks after delivery. However, once the baby blues continues for a month or more you should suspect depression and seek out some help.
It is easy for anyone on the outside looking in to feel judgmental of new moms who suffer from the baby blues or depression. This judgment is often what leaves women suffering in silence. It is important, vital really to realize that this is a natural occurrence and doesn’t mean that you don’t love your baby or want to be a good mother. It doesn’t mean that you and your baby will not have a long, loving, and healthy relationship and it certainly doesn’t indicate that you are not cut out for motherhood. All it indicates is that a woman may need some extra support and assistance adjusting to life with baby and medical treatment. The way women feel during this very special time in their life is not a clear-cut indication of their maternal instinct and it is not evidence that they are abusive or neglectful.
PPD Preventative Measures
Sadly, there isn’t much that a woman can do to prevent PPD. In fact, often a mother who had a normal pregnancy and delivery, is elated about the birth of her child will suffer PPD with no real indicator of why. Doctors do feel that proper exercise and nutrition as well as prenatal care are two things that can play a part in the significance of PPD. Additionally, having supportive family members and a spouse who shares responsibilities and is easily accessible after delivery can give mom the time she needs to adjust to her feelings. Drinking lots of water, exercising post partum, visiting with friends and taking breaks from being mom can also help women suffering from post partum depression to ease slowly back to the pace of their new life with minimal interruption. Women who feel misplaced during pregnancy or have some unresolved issues surrounding the pregnancy or birth can benefit from talking to their doctors and families about their feelings rather than holding them in. This may help to alleviate some of the pressure they are feeling. Yoga has also been a great way for women suffering from PPD to experience relief more quickly.
The bottom line is that PPD happens and it should never be ignored. Many women who suffer get into extreme situations where they can harm themselves or their baby, which can inhibit their healing tenfold. Looking out for signs and realizing that this is a natural occurrence, that it is completely curable through conventional methods and that you are not alone is an important first step in recovery. PPD is not a life sentence; it is a temporary hurdle in the life of a mother one that you can recover from if you are brave enough to seek help.