Postpartum depression is defined by the National Library of Medicine as moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later. Most of the time, it occurs within the first three months following delivery. A new baby can bring an influx of emotions and a whirlwind of unfamiliar feelings into the household, especially for the mother. Many new moms will experience mood swings and crying spells after giving birth, but those are quite common and usually go away on their own and shouldn't cause concern. Postnatal depression is different than these common, fleeting episodes though, even though it can look similar at first. While the baby blues don't need much care to fade away, postpartum depression can be a bit more complicated, and in severe cases when left untreated, downright dangerous.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
The first thing to know about it is of course, what are the symptoms? How can you tell if you or a loved one is suffering from it? Some of the common signs are as follows -
- Loss of appetite
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Loss of interest in sex
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
Like most illnesses, the earlier you seek treatment for your post-baby depression, the simpler it is to get a handle on. Untreated it can last up to a year or longer not to mention can cause a host of complications for the baby and mother alike, so it's definitely not one of those things you want to ignore or be too proud to admit you're struggling with. It's just not worth it. Especially in light of the fact that with proper treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away in just a few months.
Are Some Women More At Risk for Postpartum Depression?
Yes, some women are more at risk than others. Risk factors that increase the chance of developing postpartum depression include a history of depression either in the pregnant woman or in her family, a history of substance abuse, stressful environmental factors, and being depressed during pregnancy. These factors don't necessarily mean that you will develop postpartum depression, but if you or a woman you care about have increased risks, it's a good idea to educate yourself and pay close attention for signs and symptoms after childbirth.
Treatment of Postpartum Depression
After it has been diagnosed by a medical professional, traditional treatment of counseling and in certain cases medication can begin. Counseling is often found very helpful by women suffering from postpartum depression as it can teach them new, healthier ways to process and channel their feelings and emotions as well as coping strategies when they're feeling stressed or upset. Antidepressants are also proven to work for the treatment of postpartum depression, but it is important to note that these drugs will pass to your baby through your breast milk if you intend on breast-feeding. That said, there are a few antidepressants available today with minimal risk of side effects to the baby so be sure to discuss these options with your doctor if this is a route you're interesting in taking.