Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Postpartum depression should not be confused with the fairly typical “baby blues” that many mothers feel after childbirth. While most new mothers have mild feelings of worry or tiredness that typically go away within a week or two on their own, 15% of new mothers have feelings of extreme sadness and anxiety that interfere with a woman’s ability to care of herself or her family. The symptoms are so severe that they usually require some sort of treatment.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or 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, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too much or too little
- 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
The website Postpartum Progress stresses: “Many people have a feeling like the ones listed every now and then, for a day or two. We all have bad days. Postpartum depression and anxiety are not just bad days. Women with PPD or anxiety have symptoms like these most of the time, for a period of at least 2 weeks or longer, and these symptoms make it feel very hard to live your life each day.”
One thing stressed by many different sources was that postpartum depression can affect anyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, or economic status. It does not happen because of anything the mother does or does not do. It comes from a combination of different things – hormone levels dropping very quickly after childbirth, which can lead to chemical changes in the brain; and new mothers not being able to get enough rest to adequately recover from childbirth, which leads physical discomfort and exhaustion.
If postpartum depression is left untreated it can last for months or years. It can affect the health of the mother in many ways, but it can also interfere with connecting with and caring for her baby properly; this can cause the baby to have physical problems, such as sleeping and eating properly, and possibly behavioral problems as he or she grows up.
Family and friends are instrumental in helping a new mother get the help she needs. They may be the first to notice her symptoms. Once she is diagnosed by her health provider, the new mother can start to get the treatment she needs. Treatment options vary, but can include talking with a mental health provider, cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and medications.
For more information on postpartum depression please visit http://www.postpartumprogress.com/.