What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum Depression is an intense, invasive sadness with severe mood swings.
Causes of Postpartum Depression:
Just as in all types of depression, there is no single reason to point to as the definitive cause of postpartum depression. A variable combination of lifestyle, physical, and emotional factors can all play a part.
After childbirth, a severe drop in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones can cause irritability and feelings of sluggishness. Coupled with a disordered sleep cycle due to an infant’s schedule, this can lead to depression. Being sleep deprived can contribute to a mother feeling overwhelmed. Concern over one’s ability to handle a newborn, feeling a loss of self, of your identity, can also lead to depression. Having a baby can be isolating for many mothers, and feeling alone while overwhelmed and tired oftentimes develops into depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:
The symptoms of postpartum mood disorders don't differ from the non-postpartum mood disorders except that the feelings of guilt and inadequacy about being an incompetent mother feed a woman's worries about being less than an adequate mother.
Women with postpartum depression often experience a loss of appetite, leading to extreme weight loss.
Women with postpartum depression often report an increased yearning for sleep, sleeping heavily, but awakening (and unable to get back to sleep) the moment their baby makes a noise.
The distinguishing feature in postpartum depression is irritability. Episodes of irritability may be unprovoked or provoked by the slightest infraction. These episodes of irritability are often directed at the significant other or baby and may escalate to violent outbursts or uncontrollable sobbing.
These women with PPD may feel jealous of their infant and have difficulties bonding with their babies.
If you're a new mother, don't hesitate to bring up these feelings with your doctor. Don't let your doctor brush it off. If s/he does, find another doctor.
There is real help out there for women with postpartum mood disorders.
Risk Factors for Developing Postpartum Depression:
- Prenatal anxiety
- Stress of child care
- Lack of social support
- Being younger than 20
- Family history of depression
Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders:
- The Baby Blues - The Baby Blues affect 30-80% of new moms, normally within the first 4 weeks after delivery. Symptoms include anxiety, exhaustion, sadness, crying spells, and moodiness.
- Postpartum Depression - A woman may feel anger, irritability, guilt, lack of interest in the baby, trouble concentrating, and possibly even thoughts of harming herself or the baby.
- Postpartum Anxiety - A woman may feel anxiety, nervousness, panicked, worried, and fearful for the baby's safety. Panic attacks may be experienced along with chest pains, shortness of breath, and profuse sweating.
- Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Women with PP-OCD can have disturbing and repetitive mental images related to harm coming to their child and feel the need to do certain things over and over to relieve the anxiety associated with these images. Most moms find the images scary and unusual but never act on them.
- Postpartum Psychosis (PPP) - Women suffering from PPP may hear things or see things (hallucinations) and believe things are true that are not. They will not trust anyone around them and may become manic and confused. This form of PPD is very dangerous and help should be sought immediately. There is a 5% chance of a mother committing infanticide or suicide while suffering from PPP. It is temporary and treatable with medical help.
Treatment of Postpartum Depression:
Psychotherapy may help a woman manage her fears and worries about being a new mother.
Medication is often needed for effective treatment of postpartum depression.
Additional Resources For Postpartum Depression:
Postpartum Progress: the most widely read blog about postpartum depression and other postpartum mood disorders on the internet. Postpartum Progress offers the latest research and an unflinching look at what it is truly like to experience postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis, and antenatal depression & anxiety.
It features daily news and stigma-busting commentary, as well as a continuously-updated list of support groups around the country, personal stories from moms, photos of survivors, and links to major support organizations and top treatment programs.
Postpartum Education and Support: offers support for mothers and their families; provide resources for health care providers; and heighten public awareness of perinatal mood disorders.
Postpartum Depression International: source of great information about all types of Postpartum Mood Disorders and also offers women resources for where to go for local help.
The Postpartum Stress Center: offers wonderful connections to online resources and recommended reading.