Emotional and Mental Health

Postpartum Depression

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Aditya Gupta

Published on Mar 25, 2019   -  5 min read

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) or postnatal depression is a kind of depression that affects a new mother. 80 % of all new moms experience baby blues, but if the symptoms are severe and it starts affecting your ability to care for your baby, then it is a sign of postpartum depression. The symptoms usually start within the first week of giving birth, but some women show signs during pregnancy or up to a year after childbirth.

It is normal to have mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and sleep problems in the first few weeks after delivery, but if you are depressed for a longer time, then prompt treatment is needed. Early identification and treatment of such depression will help manage the symptoms and help the mother bond with her baby better. It is a psychological illness that can be effectively treated with the help of medications and counseling.

Is Postpartum Depression Common?

It is a very common problem, and 1 in 9 new mothers suffer from this depression.

What is Baby Blues and What are its Symptoms?

The symptoms of baby blues last only for a couple of days to weeks after childbirth. These symptoms include.

  • Feeling sad.
  • Feeling worried.
  • Crying.
  • Anxiety.
  • Reduced concentration.
  • Sleep troubles.
  • Irritability.
  • Mood swings.

What are the Causes of Postpartum Depression?

Physical and emotional causes seem to play a role in PPD. These factors are:

Physical Factors

The sudden drop of hormones estrogen and progesterone after childbirth.

  • Low levels of thyroid hormone.
  • Sleep deprivation.
  • No free time.
  • Underlying medical condition.
  • Tiredness after labor and delivery.

Emotional Factors

  • Doubting their ability to be a good mother.
  • Feeling less attractive.
  • Stress due to changes in daily routine.
  • Financial Burdens.
  • No family support.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

If not detected early and treated, symptoms of PPD might last for many months or longer. Some of the commonly seen symptoms are:

  • Severe mood swings.
  • Restlessness.
  • Excessive crying.
  • Eating more or less.
  • Increased or decreased sleep.
  • Problems bonding with the baby.
  • Extreme fatigue.
  • Hopelessness.
  • Intense anger.
  • Feeling of being a bad mother.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Thoughts of harming the baby.

Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression

The risk of PPD increases with the following conditions:

  • History of depression.
  • PPD in the past pregnancies.
  • History of bipolar disorder.
  • Family history of depression or other psychological disorders.
  • Having a special needs baby.
  • Stressful events during the last year.
  • Having twins or triplets.
  • Financial problems.
  • No family support.
  • Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.
  • Relationship problems.

How is PPD Diagnosed?

Seek medical help if you feel

  • that your symptoms are lasting for more than a couple of weeks.
  • that the symptoms are getting worse.
  • that it is getting hard to care for your baby.
  • that it is interfering with your daily activity.
  • or if you are having suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming your baby.

Your healthcare provider will diagnose the condition after talking to you about your feelings and thoughts and evaluating your overall mental health. He or she might tell you to fill a questionnaire, which is part of the depression screening. Blood test might be required to check the levels of thyroid and to rule out other conditions that might cause depression.

What is Postpartum Psychosis?

Postpartum psychosis is a rare psychological disorder that develops after a few weeks after delivery. These symptoms lead to life-threatening thoughts and behavior, thus early recognition of this condition is crucial. The signs and symptoms are:

  • Disorientation.
  • Confusion.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Agitation.
  • Paranoia.
  • Suicide attempts.
  • Attempts to harm the baby.

What to do if you have Baby Blues?

If you feel you are suffering from baby blues, try the following things:

  • Rest as much as you can.
  • Get help and support from friends and family.
  • Talk to other new mothers.
  • Avoid taking alcohol.
  • Spend time on yourself.

Your symptoms might go away within 2 weeks, if not, then it might be postpartum depression.

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Usually, PPD is treated with the help of psychotherapy or antidepressants or a combination of both. The following antidepressants are used:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
  • Atypical antidepressants.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors.

Sometimes, hormone therapy is given if the estrogen levels are very low.

Home Remedies for Postpartum Depression:

  • Go for a walk with your baby.
  • Get as much rest as you can.
  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol.
  • Do not isolate yourself.
  • If you see symptoms, do not be ashamed and try to hide it. Get help as soon as possible.
  • Join a support group.
  • Get help to take care of the baby.

How is Postpartum Psychosis Managed?

Postpartum psychosis is treated in the hospital with the help of drugs like antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and benzodiazepines. In severe cases, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which is a procedure where small electrical currents are passed through the brain to trigger brief seizures, is used. This causes changes in brain chemistry and reduces the symptoms of psychosis.

Is PPD seen in Fathers?

Yes, PPD can be seen in fathers too, and it is called paternal postpartum depression. They have the same symptoms as mothers. Young fathers or fathers who have a relationship and financial problems are at risk. Treatment is the same as that for mothers.

PPD is a very common condition seen after childbirth. It creates negative thoughts and feelings about yourself, people around you, your situation, and also your future. With proper care and treatment, this can be changed. If you want to know more about postpartum depression and how it can affect your life, consult a psychiatrist online.

Last reviewed at:
25 Mar 2019  -  5 min read




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