According to the American Psychological Association, two out of four new mothers experience what is commonly referred to as the “baby blues” after delivering a baby. Up to 15% of those women will develop a more severe and longer lasting depression called postpartum depression (PPD). If you are feeling intense bouts of sadness after the birth of your child, you are not alone. PPD is common and can be treated.
It is important to remember that postpartum depression is no one’s fault. It is an emotional and physical response to a significant life event.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum is defined as “following childbirth”. Postpartum depression is a form of clinical depression that occurs after the birth of your child. It is more common amongst first time moms, but it can occur with any pregnancy. It is characterized by the onset of profound sadness, anxiety and fatigue during the first year after delivery.
Postpartum depression is not to be confused with the baby blues. The baby blues usually involves being worried, stressed or unhappy for a short period of time after delivery. PPD, however, is much more intense.
Postpartum Psychosis is a rare postpartum disorder in which a woman experiences hallucinations, extreme mood swings, delusions, hyperactivity as well as other symptoms of psychological unrest. It is rare and only occurs in 1 or 2 out of 1,000 births. It is treatable, but if these symptoms occur, you should immediately contact your physician or dial 911 if there is an emergency.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Each case of PPD is different, but most psychologists think that PPD stems from a combination of physiological and emotional factors. After delivery, estrogen and progesterone drop rapidly. The sudden change in these key hormones can directly affect mood and feelings of wellbeing. The sleep deprivation that typically occurs with newborns doesn’t help either.
Your individual history of depression, emotional state and lifestyle all play a part in the length and severity of PPD. It is important to remember that postpartum depression is no one’s fault. It is an emotional and physical response to a significant life event.
Before assuming you have postpartum depression, make sure that you speak directly with a medical professional for a clear diagnosis.
What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Depending on the individual, the symptoms of postpartum depression can be a wide range, including:
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Crying for no reason
- Trouble focusing, learning or remembering things
- Difficulty bonding with your new baby
- Intrusive thoughts related to self-harm or harming the baby
- Feelings of intense sadness and hopelessness
- Severe anxiety or obsessive worrying
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- Changes in appetite (overeating or not eating enough)
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
You can use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to test yourself to see if you would need to see a licensed health care professional about your postpartum depression. However, a professional medical diagnosis is always recommended.
What are Ways to Treat Postpartum Depression?
Before assuming you have postpartum depression, make sure that you speak directly with a medical professional for a clear diagnosis. Once diagnosed there are a few treatments that should help.
- Antidepressants: Antidepressants help balance specific brain chemicals linked to depression. Let your doctor know if you are nursing, but most antidepressants are safe for breastfeeding.
- Counseling: Talking to a psychologist or therapist can allow you to learn ways to recognize when you are having negative thoughts and what you should do to help take you out of that mentality.
- Sleep: Getting rest may be difficult when you have a newborn in the room, but if you are suffering from PPD, it is vital that you find ways to get rest throughout the day.
- Exercise: Exercise has long been a treatment for depression. Consult with your doctor on what exercise routine is right for you, but taking a short walk around the block can do wonders for your brain and the way you feel.
Remember, You Are Not Alone
Feeling down after giving birth is very common. It’s important to recognize that you are not alone and that there are ways to pull yourself out of it. You can read more about postpartum depression here.
Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A. has been serving the northern Orlando area for over 21 years. If you are interested in a consultation today, contact us.
*This blog is for general informational purposes only. Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A. does not distribute medical advice through this blog. As such, this blog does not constitute a patient-client relationship between the reader and Christopher K. Quinsey MD, P.A.