What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression or PPD is a kind of disorder that affects an estimated 20% of women after childbirth. While mood swings or “baby blues” caused by fluctuations in hormones are normal during pregnancy and after giving birth - postpartum depression is considered as a mental health disorder.
Compared to men, women are twice more likely to experience depression. It is a mental state that affects about 25% of the population in the US. Women in their primary reproductive years between ages of 25 to 45 are more susceptible to experience depression - but are more particularly vulnerable during pregnancy or after childbirth.
New mothers may become emotionally sensitive, and easily break into tears - and this is called “baby blues”. This is not considered serious though, as it is only part of the hormonal changes and will only last in a month or so.
Postpartum Depression, however, has a longer effect on new mothers, normally lasting more than a month and even up to a year. It starts to occur within the first few months after childbirth, and affects 1 out of 10 new mothers.
Effects Of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression have the same symptoms as that of clinical depression. Some of the symptoms of PPD include constant feeling of hopelessness or sadness alongside feelings of worthlessness and guilt. These feelings become so strong that a woman’s day to day task may be be disrupted.
Among other signs of postpartum depression the new mother exhibits loss of interest in people, events and places including her baby. And being overwhelmed by everything; from being too anxious about everything about her baby’s needs.The mother becomes compulsive and repetitive by worrying about the baby’s health sometimes to the point of useless worrying about the baby’s health whether real or imagined and double checks with her pediatrician constantly.
Some mother become restless and always tired because of the needless worrying. They think that they might hurt themselves or her infant. In some severe cases, they lose interest on food and stop eating altogether. And so are more likely to develop insomnia and paranoia.
In some cases they lack interest in sex and withdraw from any physical, emotional and psychological contacts with her spouse, relatives, friends and colleagues, and a loss or excessive attention to her baby. Some may not be able to concentrate on simple things and in some cases this apparent excessive sadness will lead to suicidal thoughts.
While the issue on postpartum depression has been regarded as a flaw or weakness of character in the past which mothers were reluctant to talk about. Today it is now seen as a legitimate medical condition and controlling its signs and symptoms can now be easily treated if diagnosed early with the assistance of competent mental health care professionals.
Postpartum Risk Factor
While medical science has not discovered one single cause for postpartum depression, some factors play a role in the formation of this mental disorder. Some of the reasons for this disorder are the following; a sudden drop in a woman’s estrogen and progesterone level following childbirth and low hormone production by the thyroid gland which causes chemical changes in the brain thereby leading to depression.
Researchers have theorized that drastic change in blood pressure and a weak immune system are also some of the contributing factors which can lead to fatigue and mood swings which is usually seen in this type of depression.
Mothers who feel unsure about her ability to take care of the new baby have difficulties in coping with small problems and results in sleeplessness and anxiety attacks. Other factors which are emotional in nature also crop up. Feelings of physical unattractiveness and sometimes helplessness. Other factors which lead to this type of depression can include lack of family support especially from her partner, difficulty in breastfeeding, money problems and the demands of other older siblings or the new baby.
Treatment Of Postpartum Depression
If left untreated, postpartum depression treatment can take a long time. It can take up to one year for the symptoms to disappear. And during this time, the disorder may have affected not only the mother but the rest of the family. It can affect a mother’s relationship with her child and will cause stress and tension within the family.
Researchers have found that children whose mothers suffered from an untreated case of postpartum depression are most likely to have behavioral problems such as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder or ADHD, temper tantrums, and sleeping and eating problems. Some children have problems with delayed speech. Studies have noted that the delay in development of a child will depend on how severe the case of a mother’s depression is particularly in the child’s first year, which is considered to critical in terms of cognitive development.
If a woman feels she has postpartum depression, she should not be ashamed to consult her ob-gyne especially if the the depression is severe enough to prevent her from performing her daily tasks and if it has lasted for more than two weeks. For an effective treatment of postpartum depression immediate medical intervention if important. If the signs of postpartum depression are ignored, it can result in dangerous behavior, actions and thoughts.
Diagnosis Of Postpartum Depression
The doctor may start by asking the patient questions about the condition of the patient’s emotions, the quality of her life, and her eating and sleeping pattern. When postpartum depression has been established and diagnosed, the doctor may prescribe antidepressants and and a referral to a psychiatrist or a mental health expert.
The treatment will be dependent of how severe the depression is. Most PPD patients recover well after consultations and proper counseling and therapy. The sessions with the psychiatrist will help the new mother to cope and deal better with the depression as well as how to solve problems and goal setting to total recovery.
The doctor may give the patient an antidepressant which is safe for lactating mothers. Hormone replacement therapy may also help to replenish the estrogen lost during childbirth, however, there is a risk involved. This may increase the risk of developing blood clots in the lungs or legs and a decrease in the patient’s production of breast milk. The patient will also be encouraged to join a support group and adapt a healthy lifestyle.
Prevention Of Postpartum Depression
Experts agree that the best way to take care of the new baby is for the mother to take care of herself as well. She needs to take a break from her daily tasks and make time for herself but she should avoid being alone.
With early diagnosis and treatment, PPD is treatable. Within a period of 3-6 months most patients recover with proper medication, good counseling and support from family members and friends.