When most people think of the arrival of a new baby, they think of the emotions that usually come along with it: joy, pride, excitement, etc. However, it is now recognized that about 10% of new moms can develop sadness and negative emotions that doctors call postpartum depression. In extreme cases, new mothers can even get postpartum psychosis, which can put mothers and their new babies in danger.
There is some social stigma surrounding postpartum depression. Many people cannot understand why some new moms would be depressed after the birth of their baby. Actually, it is a combination of physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes that occur in a person's life after the delivery of a child. The balance of your hormones changes drastically, which can leave you feeling depressed and moody. You may also feel unattractive as you try to lose your baby weight. Lastly, you may not be able to sleep very well while taking care of your baby, which can make you feel overwhelmed.
When all of these changes in your world start to pile up in a snowball effect, you can develop different levels of baby blues. First, slight symptoms can include irritability, sadness, and trouble sleeping which last a few days or weeks. Slightly more intense postpartum depression includes loss of appetite, feelings of shame or guilt, difficulty connecting with your baby, and even thoughts of hurting your child. The worst form of this problem is called postpartum psychosis, and it appears as hallucinations, paranoia, and actual attempts to hurt yourself or your baby.
To keep you and your baby safe, it is important to recognize several things that could indicate that you are at risk for developing postpartum depression. If you have a history of depression or bipolar disorder, this can increase your chances for having a pregnancy that affects you even more strongly. Stressful things like job loss, marital conflict, and a weak support system can all contribute to sadness after the birth. Lastly, a previous bout with postpartum depression or having an unwanted or unplanned child can also up your chances.
If you believe that you are suffering from postpartum depression, you should talk to your doctor before it is too late. Your medical staff may ask you to perform a depression test or submit a blood sample to determine the severity of your problem. If you do have baby blues, things like counseling, antidepressants, and hormone therapy can help you overcome mild symptoms. For those with postpartum psychosis, electroconvulsive therapy, mood stabilizers, and antipsychosis medication may be able to help.
Should your doctor not recognize the signs of postpartum depression in a new mother, this can result in injury and even death to a baby at the hands of its depressed mother. Doctors can contribute even more directly to injury to a baby when proper procedures are not followed during the delivery process. Failure to induce, misuse of forceps, and other such things can cause birth injury and infection.