Postpartum depression is moderate to severe depression in a woman who has given birth. It may occur within weeks to one year after delivery. It is also known as baby blues. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery. Studies show that it affects 10-15% of adult mothers yearly.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
The exact cause of post-partum depression is unknown. Changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy may affect a woman’s mood.
Many non-hormonal factors also influence a woman’s mood during this period. Some of them include:
- Changes in a woman’s body from pregnancy and delivery
- Changes in work and social relationships
- Having less time and freedom for oneself
- Lack of sleep
- Worries about one’s ability to be a good mother
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression
The risk of having postpartum depression are higher in mothers who;
- Are younger than 20 years old
- Did not plan the pregnancy or had mixed feelings about the pregnancy
- Had depression, bipolar disorder, or an anxiety disorder before the pregnancy, or with a past pregnancy
- Had a stressful event during pregnancy or delivery including personal illness, illness or death of a loved one, a difficult or emergency delivery, premature delivery, illness or birth defect in the baby
- Have a close family member who has had depression or anxiety
- Have a poor relationship with spouse, or are single
- Have little support from spouse, family or friends
- Use alcohol
- Take illicit substances
Note that the use of alcohol, illicit drugs or cigarette smoking causes serious health hazards to a baby in a womb.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Some of them include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details or explanations
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, or muscle pains
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby
Diagnosis of Postpartum Depression
Of course, a diagnosis of this condition is made by a medical doctor. It would involve your doctor asking you about your feelings, thoughts, and mental health to distinguish between a short-term cause of postpartum depression and a more severe form of depression.
Your doctor may also order blood tests to identify a possible thyroid dysfunction as a cause of some of the symptoms you have. Other tests such as neuroimaging studies can be ordered to rule out other causes of the above symptoms.
Treatment of Postpartum Depression
The treatment and recovery time of postpartum depression vary, based on the severity of the condition and one’s individual needs.
In case of an underlying thyroid condition, your doctor would treat it or refer you to the appropriate specialist for expert management.
You may also be referred to a mental health specialist. Postpartum depression can be treated with psychotherapy, medications, or both.
Psychotherapy involves comprehensive talks with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health providers. This helps to provide better ways to manage feelings, solve problems, or set realistic goals. Family or relationship therapy also helps, sometimes.
Medical therapy involves the use of antidepressants. The type of antidepressants used in this case are ones that cause little to no side effects for the baby since babies are exposed to these drugs through the breast milk. Your doctor will ascertain the best combination of drugs comprising antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers while ensuring your safety and that of your baby.
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an option when postpartum depression is severe and does not respond to medications.
A word from HealthFacts to you
Postpartum depression or baby blues is a fairly common condition that mothers experience. In case any of the symptoms previously highlighted is noticed, kindly inform your doctor as soon as you can.
Lastly, it is International Women’s Day today. Shout out to every woman out there. We appreciate you all for the resilience, strength and beauty you bring to this world.