What Is It and How to Deal?
Pregnancy is the most challenging period for a mother emotionally and physically, but often we overlook the difficulties a mother goes through after giving birth to the child. A new addition to the family can be stressful for a new mother considering the lack of sleep, new responsibilities, and time for herself.
Baby blues or mood swings are common in new mothers, but if your symptoms persist or worsen for a few weeks, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. Give this article a read to know the signs and the tips for the management of postpartum blues and depression so that you won’t ignore this vital aspect of the post-pregnancy journey.
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Is Postpartum Considered a Mental Illness?
Going through temporary mood changes and feelings of sadness right after the birth of a child is normal and isn’t considered a mental illness. Many women experience the baby blues for three to seven days. However, if your sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness stay longer than two weeks, you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mental illness affecting one out of every nine new mothers. PPD has an impact on both your behavior and your physical health. When you have depression, the feeling of sadness persists and can disrupt your daily life. You may feel disconnected from your baby, as if you are not its mother, or you may not love the baby. These emotions can range from mild to severe.
Postpartum Depression Diagnosis and Symptoms
PPD usually appears after a few days of having a baby, and its symptoms may vary from person to person. Postpartum depression can cause you to feel estranged from your child, but it is not your fault that you are experiencing these emotions.
The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based on certain symptoms. The following signs need to be present for two weeks to diagnose PPD:
- Frequently feeling sad or down
- Crying or tearing up frequently
- Being agitated and irritable
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in life
- Appetite loss
- Less energy and motivation to get things done
- Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep
- Sleeping more than usual
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Weight loss or gain that is not explained
- Feeling as though life isn’t worth living
- Having little interest in your child
- Feeling not attached to your baby
Causes and Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression
Not every mother experiences PPD but certain risk factors can increase the chances of developing severe baby blues after delivery. However, knowing the underlying causes can help doctors and patients prevent the condition’s effects. Here are the common causes and risk factors of PPD:
- History of depression. If you have a history of depression either before or during pregnancy, that can put you at risk of developing PPD.
- Age. Younger mothers have higher rates of postpartum depression due to multiple factors, including the burden of responsibility at a young age.
- No. of children. Sometimes, having more children can put a mother under stress as she may get tense thinking about future responsibilities and financial concerns.
- Uncertainty about pregnancy. Women who conceive after many complications may have more chances of PPD due to living under the fear of uncertainty during the whole pregnancy.
- Stress. Continued exposure to stress makes you more vulnerable to depression, especially during pregnancy. Going through a highly stressful event, such as a job loss during pregnancy, can cause PPD.
- Hormonal changes. The drop in levels of estrogen and progesterone after giving birth could be a risk factor too. Moreover, other hormones secreted by your thyroid gland may also fall sharply, leaving you tired, slow, and depressed.
- Loss of self-identity. You may feel less good-looking, question your identity, or believe you’ve lost independence. Any of these factors can cause postpartum depression.
- Sleep deprivation. One of the major problems new mothers have to deal with is lack of sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived from a crying baby and overwhelmed, you may struggle to deal with even minor issues.
- Marital Conflicts. Having a supportive partner is a true blessing, especially in the crucial time of pregnancy. Conflicts with your spouse during or after pregnancy are a major factor in developing PPD.
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Postpartum Depression Treatment
It’s a recommended self-care tip to keep a close eye on how you’re feeling during this current stage of your life and keep your doctor up to date on any emotional changes you’re experiencing. If you’re in the first two weeks after giving birth, your doctor may wait to see if your symptoms go away because it’s more likely a case of the baby blues. However, your doctor will recommend PPD treatment if the symptoms keep worsening and persistent.
Signs you need postpartum depression interventions:
- You begin to feel hopeless or extremely sad.
- Your depression symptoms worsen.
- You are incapable of caring for yourself or your child.
- You are considering hurting yourself or your child.
Postpartum Depression Therapy
Postpartum depression counseling and treatment plans are generally similar to those developed to treat other types of depression. Seeking help from a mental health professional can be a wise decision as an expert will tell you how to cope with your emotions. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can teach you how to recognize negative thoughts and patterns contributing to your depression and break that negative thought cycle.
Moreover, guided self-help may be used, which entails reading a book or taking an online course on your own or with the assistance of a therapist. The course materials concentrate on the problems you may be experiencing and practical advice on how to deal with them. The courses are typically 9 to 12 weeks long.
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Medication for Postpartum Depression
Antidepressants are the most widely used class of drugs for depression. However, the medicines are only prescribed by a doctor if the therapy doesn’t work and symptoms worsen. They aim to balance neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain, and may take several weeks to show effectiveness. A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), for example, is a type of antidepressant that helps your brain maintain optimal serotonin levels. Serotonin regulates mood and is frequently out of balance in people suffering from depression.
One commonly prescribed option is Zulresso. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for postpartum depression cure. Zulresso (Brexanolone) is given via IV infusion over 60 hours under medical supervision. You can be watched closely (baby can accompany you, but another attendant is required because side effects include drowsiness). While this may appear to be a unique treatment, it is very effective in alleviating depression by restoring altered hormone levels during pregnancy.
Hospitalization or inpatient treatment may be required in severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis. Electroconvulsive (ECT) therapy may be used to treat treatment-resistant depression, depression with psychosis-hallucinations (false perceptions) or delusions (false beliefs), or overwhelming suicidal thoughts if symptoms are particularly severe.
Self-Help Tips for Postpartum Depression
Understanding PPD and early symptoms detection can help you care for yourself at home. In addition, practicing self-help tips can save you from the worst of this condition.
- Request that family and friends care for your child for short periods, allowing you to sleep or exercise.
- Don’t expect to be a perfect parent or expect the same life as before becoming a mother.
- Participate in a support group for mothers suffering from maternal depression.
- Recognize that depression is a real medical condition that requires treatment and is not a sign of weakness.
- Accept that being a parent is difficult for everyone (not just you) and that it is acceptable to seek assistance.
There are numerous ways to assist mothers suffering from postpartum depression, including psychotherapies, medications, and support groups. So you’re returning to feeling better and more like yourself. Online treatment for depression is the best option if you won’t get better and hesitate to share with your therapist in person.
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