What Is Postpartum Depression Postpartum depression is entirely different from the “baby blues” that women often suffer from the first few weeks after giving birth. Women will often have difficulty sleeping, feel moody and cry easily, and feel completely overwhelmed. Generally women can expect to lose the blues about two weeks to a month after giving birth.
Postpartum Depression, on the other hand, frequently lasts for months. It is a serious mental disorder that warrants immediate medical intervention. She will have feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and persistent feelings of sadness. In many cases she will have difficulty bonding with her baby and have trouble caring for him or her. In the most severe cases she may develop what is known as postpartum psychosis. Mothers that are suffering from this type of depression can be a danger to themselves and their baby. She may begin to behave strangely, and see things that are not there.
As with all forms of depression, there are strong indications that changing hormone levels are in large part responsible for the development of postpartum depression. Women experience huge swings in hormone levels immediately following childbirth, as well as following miscarriage or still birth. The chances of developing postpartum depression increase if you have had postpartum depression previously, you have a poor support network, your baby is sick, or if you have a great deal of other life stress to deal with. If you or someone in your family has bi-polar disorder, you have a much greater chance of developing postpartum psychosis.
The symptoms for postpartum depression cross over with the other forms of depression also. Women may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may suffer from anxiety. They may lose weight due to the difficulty in eating, though the opposite could also be a sign of depression. It may be difficult to sleep, and she may find that she has a difficult time concentrating on simple tasks. In more severe cases she may have passing thoughts of suicide or harming the baby, but in postpartum psychosis she may feel she is left with no choice but to act on those thoughts.
Treatment begins with a diagnosis by a medical doctor. The doctor will examine all her symptoms, consider her history and her family history of mental disorders, and will investigate whether or not the symptoms could be caused by any medication the woman may be taking. He will first eliminate any other medical issues that could be causing similar symptoms, such as hypothyroidism.
Treatment generally consists of some counseling and possibly medication. It is preferable to treat with counseling alone for milder cases, because medications can be passed to the baby through the mother’s milk. Women should make sure that they eat well, get plenty of exercise, and sleep as much as is possible for the mother of a new baby.
The important thing to recognize is that postpartum depression is a mental illness, and women should not be embarrassed to admit that they may have it. It does not mean they are bad mothers. If you feel that you may have postpartum depression, do not be afraid to admit it to your doctor. You are not alone. Many women develop postpartum depression every year. The good news is that it is treatable and the sooner you start treatment, the more successful recovery you will have.