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Postpartum Depression: A Common But Serious Condition

Mothers may feel a range of emotions when their baby is born, from excitement to joy. Sometimes, these emotions are followed by unexpected depression. Thousands of women experience postpartum depression, which can have detrimental effects on both mothers and babies.

Are you looking for the reason why postpartum depression happens? Let’s review the causes, symptoms, psychosis, prevention, and treatments!

What is Postpartum Depression?

A mother has postpartum depression
A mother has postpartum depression

When a baby arrives, new moms might feel pure bliss one moment and a bit overwhelmed the next—it’s all over the place. The feelings of anxiety, sadness, and tiredness that stay intact or become more intense after a long time are postpartum depression (PPD).

Based on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data, 7.5% of new moms experience symptoms of postpartum depression within the first year.

This medical condition is more than just the “baby blues”. While the baby blues might last for a couple of weeks, PPD can stretch on for months and severely impact a mom’s ability to take care of both herself and her baby.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Lack of support from husband
Lack of support from husband

The causes of PPD are a mix of physical, emotional, and social factors. There is no single cause, and each individual may experience one or more factors.

Hormonal changes play a significant role. After childbirth, the levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone drop rapidly after being at peak. This sudden extreme change can trigger mood swings and depression.

Not only estrogen and progesterone, the thyroid hormone drop can also contribute to depression.

Additionally, sleep deprivation, the pressure of taking care of your baby, like breastfeeding, a personal history of depression, a lack of support from family, and other social factors can all play a part.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Breastfeeding fatigue
Breastfeeding fatigue

Common symptoms of depression after giving birth most commonly appear within the first few weeks to a year after birth. Here are some signs and symptoms of PPD:

  • Severe mood swings
  • Severe panic attacks and anxiety
  • Constantly feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Crying more often
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Changes in sleep patterns and appetite
  • Feeling of disconnection from the baby
  • Self-disconnecting from families and friends
  • Lose interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Intense anger and irritation
  • Feelings of shame, inadequacy, and guilt
  • Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
  • Thoughts of harming the baby

Postpartum Psychosis

Fatigue from taking care of the baby
Fatigue from taking care of the baby

Different from PPD, postpartum psychosis can also happen to new moms. It is a rare yet severe perinatal mental health condition that begins suddenly within the first two weeks after childbirth.

Usually, this perinatal depression is more likely to be found in women with previous mental health conditions. The symptoms of this major depression include:

  • Extreme agitation, confusion, and hallucinations
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t there
  • Having delusional thoughts
  • Feeling paranoid
  • Messed up sleep patterns
  • Having too much energy and feeling upset
  • Attempting to do self-harm or harm the baby

This condition requires immediate medical attention. 

Can PPD be Prevented?

Pregnant mother consults with doctor
Pregnant mother consults with doctor

The USPSTF, or US Preventive Services Task Force, gave recommendations in 2019 about strategies for preventing PPD, including:

  • All pregnant and postpartum women should be evaluated for depressive illness risk.
  • Women who are at an increased risk of PPD should be recommended for counselling interventions.
  • Effective counseling methods include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT).

There are also other specific programs, including:

  • Mothers and Babies Program (CBT-Based): Weekly group sessions covering mood theories, stress effects, cognitive techniques, and parenting strategies.
  • ROSE Program (IPT-Based): Group sessions focusing on stress management, social support, role transitions, and interpersonal conflict resolution.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): Effective in reducing relapse rates in women with a history of depression.

Mothers can also make self-efforts at home, including building a strong support system, taking breaks practicing self-care, and staying connected with their healthcare provider. 

How is PPD Treated?

Undergoing therapy
Undergoing therapy

If you’re a mother and feeling the symptoms of PPD, please see a medical professional immediately. This can include your prenatal and primary care provider, mental health provider, and baby’s health care provider

The treatments can include:

  • Therapy
  • Counselling
  • Medication, like antidepressants and oestrogen
  • Support groups

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes PPD and “baby blues” different?

PPD is more severe and can last longer. It requires medical intervention as it affects a mother’s ability to function. Conversely, the “baby blues” are common, mild, and usually resolve within a couple of weeks. They include mood swings, crying spells, and anxiety.

Are some women more at risk of PPD?

Yes, some factors can increase PPD risk, such as personal or family history of depression, experiencing significant stress during pregnancy, and lack of support.

What will happen if postpartum depression is not treated?

If left untreated, PPD can have serious consequences. It can affect the mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby, potentially leading to long-term issues with bonding and child development.

Conclusion

Postpartum depression is a very serious condition experienced by many women, especially new moms. However, it’s important to remember that help is available. With the right support and treatment, recovery is within reach.

If you or your close ones are experiencing symptoms of PPD, contact Wells Road Medical Centre immediately. We offer comprehensive support for mothers before, during, and after pregnancy, ensuring a healthy journey into motherhood. Reach out to us today for the care you deserve!