Postpartum Depression

The whole process of pregnancy and giving birth is a difficult period in a woman’s life. The mother of a newborn is bound to get tired and exhausted through the whole transition of going from the 9 months of pregnancy to delivery to taking care of a newborn. It’s not easy and gets even harder with the inclusion of depression.

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Some women feel sad, exhausted, and detached from their babies soon after birth. If they do so, they might need professional help to tackle this problem. Therapy, medication and medical supervision are necessary when a woman suffers through these and other symptoms that persist longer than 2 weeks.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum is described as the post-delivery period. During this time, it’s possible that some women might suffer through prolonged periods of sadness, hopelessness, exhaustion, and can even feel like they don’t love their baby. If these, and other severe symptoms occur and persist in a woman for 2 or more weeks, then she can be diagnosed to be suffering from postpartum depression. 

PPD is linked with emotional, social and chemical changes that are associated with having a baby. The criteria for diagnosing its existence is:

  1. The symptoms persist every day for 2 or more weeks.
  2. It disrupts one’s daily routine.
  3. It causes problems in one’s normal social life
  4. The behavior is hurtful for the person suffering from it and for the people around her.

As discussed above, the feeling of emptiness and hopelessness will not simply go away if you avoid them. You will feel disconnected from your baby and have constant thoughts of not being his/her mother or not wanting to love her/him.

Despite it being a very serious condition, it is unfortunately very common among postpartum mothers, and it’s also avoided a lot. With depression already stigmatized even in common individuals, a new mother is guilt-tripped into being a ‘bad mother’ due to her inability to be able to connect with her baby and the constant need to be left alone. 

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

So far we have discussed a few symptoms of PPD, the following are the most common symptoms that medical professionals look for while diagnosing someone with the condition:

  1. Constant restlessness or mood swings.
  2. Lack of motivation or energy to complete tasks.
  3. Feelings of worthlessness, and guilt of being a ‘bad mother’.
  4. Not being interested or feeling connected with the baby; difficulty forming a bond with the baby, feeling like it is someone else’s baby.
  5. Insomnia or Hypersomnia.
  6. Lack of attention / Inability to make decisions
  7. Increased / Decreased Appetite.
  8. Constant thoughts of wanting to hurt the baby
  9. Self-harm / Suicidal Ideation
  10. Feeling Overwhelmed / Hopeless / Helpless
  11. Difficulty retaining information/memory problems.
  12. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy before.

Psychosomatic Symptoms: Constant headaches, backaches, and pain throughout the body without any apparent physical cause.

What are the Risk Factors for PPD?

Just like any other form of depression, the risk factors of developing postpartum depression are higher in some women than the rest. These risk factors include:

  1. Family history of different forms of depression.
  2. Having struggled with depression at a prior time in life
  3. Lack of support from friends and family
  4. Environmental stressors, i.e. financial, social and other issues.
  5. Lack of support from the partner.
  6. Taking care of a disabled child.
  7. Suffering through excessive physical problems as a result of delivery.
  8. Unwanted/unplanned pregnancy.
  9. The baby needs special medical attention.
  10. Being depressed during pregnancy.
  11. Have addiction or other drug problems.

What are the Causes of Postpartum Depression?

Some women who may not be at risk for PPD may also develop the condition a few weeks after giving birth. This can happen due to a number of reasons. We have described a few of those reasons below.

Hormonal Changes:

During pregnancy, the hormones progesterone, and estrogen levels shoot up inside the body. As soon as a woman gives birth, these hormone levels fall dramatically. Along with this, the thyroid levels also drop resulting in fatigue. Due to this excessive hormonal change, the brain and body sometimes fail to cope with the new developments which lead to symptoms of depression.

The Stress of Taking Care of a Newborn:

If having a human growing inside of you is hard, giving birth to him and then accepting that you have to take care of his needs for a long time to come is an even harder task. This can cause a tremendous amount of stress in a woman. Sometimes, the women who give birth for the second or third time are prone to develop depression more than those who have given birth for the first time. Because with each birth, you realize how much responsibility has fallen over your shoulders and that itself is a huge cause of stress and, in severe cases, the resulting depression.

Physical Changes:

Some women become insecure and conscious about their bodies due to the number of changes it goes through. Gaining weight, having belly fat, going through, and dealing with, a lot of pain; all of it contributes to feeling tired, exhausted and overall hopeless. In severe cases, this leads to developing postpartum depression.

What’s the Difference Between PPD and Baby Blues?

Some women go through certain symptoms of Postpartum Depression immediately after giving birth. These symptoms include:

  1. Crying spells after every few intervals.
  2. Feeling anxious, exhausted and sad.
  3. Difficulty falling asleep.
  4. Losing one’s appetite.

The difference is, the symptoms of baby blues appear in a majority of women after they give birth. And these symptoms tend to fade away after about a week of giving birth. Whereas for any condition to be diagnosed as a psychological disorder, e.g. Postpartum Depression, the symptoms must persist for about 2 weeks, cause observable distress, disturb one’s daily functioning and the behavior can hurt not just her but also everyone around her.

It isn’t necessary that ALL these symptoms need to exist in a person before they decide to seek help. If anything is causing you distress and stopping you from paying attention to your baby, don’t be afraid of seeking help. 

What is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious condition that results in a woman losing touch with reality. Beginning in the first 2 weeks after childbirth, psychosis is a medical emergency that usually requires hospitalization due to the risk of suicide and infanticide. The common symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis include:

  1. Hallucinations and Delusions 
  2. Paranoia
  3. Rapid mood swings going from one extreme to another in a matter of seconds, e.g. extreme sadness to hysterical laughter to extreme happiness, etc.)
  4. Constant agitation, restlessness, and anxiety.
  5. Behaving in ways that aren’t normal for you.
  6. Trying to hurt yourself, your baby or the people around you.
  7. Loss of appetite/refusal to eat and sleep.
  8. Confusion in distinguishing between delusions and reality

Although it’s diagnosed in only about 4 out of 1,000 women who deliver, it is still a severe condition for those who do go through it. Women who have suffered through bipolar and other psychological problems such as schizoaffective disorder are more at risk for developing psychosis than others.

Treatment of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a serious condition but that doesn’t mean it can’t be treated if you ask for help. The most important part is to have hope that you are going to become better. You’re not bad or evil for going through such a condition when this should be a time in your life where you should be happy. A lot of women go through it and that’s okay. As long as you’re willing to become better, you will. The following are a few treatment methods you can consider.

Bond with the Baby:

 The attachment phenomenon between a mother and child is the most important form of bonding during infancy. Postpartum depression can hinder this process of bonding by making the mother feel uninterested in the baby and unwilling to take care of her. 

Studies show mothers who suffer from postpartum depression can actually become better when they indulge in taking care of the baby. Loving and cuddling the baby can release endorphins into the system, resulting in a better, more positive mood.

Share Your Feelings with Someone 

The last thing you should do while suffering from these feelings is to keep them all bottled up inside of you. Try to share your feelings with the people closest to you. Call a friend, talk to your mother or siblings, speak up with what you’re going through with your partner. It’s a difficult process but you don’t have to be harsh with yourself through it. Keeping it inside is going to cause more harm to you and the baby than anything else.

Work on Your Relationship with Those Around You

If there are people around you, willing to help you out with chores, consider yourself lucky and accept the help they’re providing. Even if you are easily irritable, you need those people with you to make your tasks easier. It’s important that the people willing to be there for you are allowed to do so by you.

Work on Your Bond with Your Partner

The nine months of pregnancy, their struggle and then the process of giving birth, they’re all very difficult. Once a baby is born, most couples seem to grow apart due to the amount of attention given to the baby and the mother’s frequent mood swings; if the partner keeps himself distant, the process will become even harder.

With postpartum depression, this distance becomes haunting for most women because they need the support of their partner more than anyone. The most important thing to do would be to be there for each other, spend time with each other, go out for a walk together and talk to each other.

Communicate clearly and listen to each other. If it’s hard to do so with the baby, then let someone trustworthy to look after the baby for the evening while you both take a little break and have an outing where you can talk. Divide the caretaking and house chores between the two of you so that it becomes easier for you to cope with your condition as well. If your partner can get paternity leave, then ask him to get one to help you out during this period. 

Don’t Pressure Yourself Into Doing Everything

You might get a rush of adrenaline during the first few days after delivery but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself. Neither will the symptoms of postpartum depression go away if you perform all the tasks on your own. Give yourself time to rest after every interval so that you don’t overwork and overtire yourself. You don’t even have to force yourself to take care of the baby 24/7. When you’re feeling low, give the baby to someone else in the house for a little while.

Get a Proper Amount of Sleep

It’s generally believed that taking care of the baby is a 24-hour duty. While it’s true that the baby needs to be your priority, it doesn’t have to mean you have to sit beside him the whole day without even blinking. Get an appropriate amount of sleep whenever possible. Take naps through the day when your baby is napping.

Sleep is a necessary part of your day. If the symptoms of depression include insomnia, talk to your doctor about what you can do.

Meditate

 Try to get back into a work-out routine. Meditation and yoga can also help your body and brain get energized and release some important hormones. Studies show meditation helps a lot when it comes to mood disorders.

Listening to soothing music can also help you be at ease. Try indulging in relaxing and soothing exercises in order to calm yourself.

Ease Up Your Routine

You don’t have to do all the house chores every single day. Slot times and divide between tasks and days when you will do them. Make yourself and your baby the priority. Work can wait, your mental health and your baby can not.

Eat Your Meals On Time

Skipping meals and replacing them with snacking later is not going to help. Sometimes you’re going to not feel hungry but once you eat, your mood instantly feels better. Don’t skip the important meals of the day. Eat a few bites at least but make sure you’re not letting your stomach go empty. It may not decrease the symptoms of irritability, but it won’t increase them either. 

Don’t Stress Yourself Over Physical Changes

Some women may ruin their health because of the physical changes their body has been going through. They also ruin their mood because of it and start feeling increasingly hopeless when their body doesn’t immediately go back to its post-pregnancy shape.

Consider the fact that it took your body 9 months to reach its current state, the baby was not the only one taking up space; the body fat and water levels also kept increasing in order to make your body conveniently carry the weight of the baby. So for all of this to go away, your body will need more than just a few days or weeks. Also, following a proper healthy diet and working out can help you reach that goal faster; it will still take months but will become easier and your mood will change because of it too. 

Seek Therapy

If the symptoms of depression are too severe, then you need to seek therapy. Either go for individual sessions or join a focus group, or both if that suits you. But it’s important to get help from a psychological professional. 

Consider Couple Counseling 

Even after trying to make it work, your relationship with your partner seems to be suffering or if you think you both need a third opinion, then consider the possibility of going for couple counseling. It can help you both a lot to tackle issues you’ve not been looking at or avoiding talking about and it’s going to prove to be healthy in the long-term as well. 

Consider the Possibility of Medications

Talk to your doctor about the medications you can take. Mood stabilizers can be helpful in tackling your problem but if you’re a breastfeeding mother then there are some necessary concerns which only your doctor can help get you through. 

However serious an issue Postpartum Depression might be, it’s not the end of everything. You have a lot of options and solutions available in order to be treated and become better. Sometimes, women misdiagnose their condition to be depressed when it may just be a normal response to a huge change in life. It’s okay to be concerned, just discuss your symptoms with a professional in order to start on the path of becoming healthy as soon as possible. Remember, you have to be willing to become better in order to walk the path of recovery. Don’t lose hope, you and your little one deserve to be healthy and happy.

If you need more information regarding newborns or maternity, visit Little Angel Baby Clothes for more information.

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