What we know
Postpartum depression is a treatable medical illness that affects about 15-20% of women after giving birth. It can develop anywhere from a few weeks to a year after delivery, but it's most common in the first three months postpartum. Postpartum depression can be hard to spot, because the moodiness and other symptoms are similar to the "baby blues" -- a short-lived state that affects up to 70% of new mothers. Only 15% of all women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum depression, ever receive professional treatment.
It's normal to feel emotional when you've just had a baby. Hormone shifts, lack of sleep, and adjusting to life with a newborn can seem overwhelming. But if you've been feeling sad, moody, guilty, or hopeless for more than a couple of weeks, it could be postpartum depression. Some women also report that they don't feel any joy or excitement about their new baby, and they get no pleasure from things they once enjoyed.
Not all women experience anxiety as a symptom of postpartum depression, but some do. You may feel nervous, frightened, restless, or stressed. Some women have intense worry about their baby's health or safety. If you constantly feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of caring for your newborn, or if nerves interfere with your ability to handle everyday tasks, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
Ups and downs
Mood swings are a normal part of life after a baby arrives, especially in the first two weeks after delivery. Don't be surprised if you find yourself laughing one minute and crying the next. But if these emotional highs and lows continue for more than two weeks or start to get worse, they may be a sign of postpartum depression.
PPD or baby blues?
PPD is different from the typical baby blues that can occur due to hormonal changes after birth. The lows are more profound and symptoms rarely go away without treatment
What sets postpartum depression apart is how long it lasts and severity of symptoms. The baby blues - having mood swings, feeling sad or anxious, crying for no reason - usually goes away on its own after about a week. If your symptoms persist or get worse over time, you should seek help. In some cases, postpartum depression can start one to two months after childbirth, with strong feelings of depression or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare, serious mental illness. It's more common in women with a personal or family history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Symptoms include irritability, restlessness, rapidly changing moods, confusion, erratic behavior, and delusional thoughts. A woman with postpartum psychosis is at risk of harming herself or her baby, so it's important to seek help right away if a new mother is experiencing any of these symptoms.
Swift action to lift postpartum depression is important for a healthy mother and child. Without treatment, depression can last for many months and may have long-term consequences for you and your baby. Research suggests that postpartum depression can interfere with bonding between mother and child, which can lead to behavior problems and developmental delays when your child gets older.
Many women with postpartum depression find relief through talk therapy. A therapist is there to listen and give you strategies to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings you're having. One type, called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), has been tested and compared with the use of an antidepressant medicine. A short course of CBT worked as well as medicine in easing symptoms of postpartum depression.Your doctor may recommend one of the antidepressant medicines to help lift postpartum depression. These drugs can be very effective, but they don't work overnight, and they may have unwanted side effects or react badly with other medications you may be taking. Ask your doctor how long it will take before you feel better, what side effects you might experience, how long you'll need to take the medication, and how to taper off when you're ready.
Seek and accept help!Treatments include:
- Medicines, including anti-depressants
- Support groups
- Diet and exercise
More information here
When you're depressed, it can feel like things will never get better. Adjusting to new motherhood is one of the biggest challenges a woman will face in her life - it's normal to feel overwhelmed. But with the right help, you can feel better. Without the cloud of depression hanging over your head, you'll be able to enjoy your new baby and take the challenges in stride.