Postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe medical condition that many mothers experience. It’s a condition that occurs to a mother after she gives birth to a newborn. You might be feeling hopeless as you try to be a mother — maybe your birthing process didn’t go as planned, or perhaps you’re having trouble breastfeeding.
The symptoms of PPD can last a long time. They’re severe as well, and if left untreated, you could develop something more serious that may pose a danger to you or your child. It’s essential to learn about postpartum depression to know if this is happening to you or even your loved one.
Know that if you have PPD, it is not your fault. It’s a medical condition that requires treatment if you want to get better. Here’s what you need to know about PPD so you can keep yourself, your loved one and the baby healthy and safe.
Defining Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a medical condition associated with extreme feelings of worry, sadness, tiredness and hopelessness that women experience after giving birth. These feelings can last a long time, making it hard for new moms to take care of themselves and the baby.
This condition can occur any time after childbirth. Even though it usually starts within a few weeks after having a baby, it can begin later, too, even up to a year after birth. It often doesn’t go away on its own and needs professional treatment to get better.
Although it is common for people to feel sad or empty, it’s not common for it to last as long as it does with PPD. It’s also not an expected part of becoming a mother. PPD affects your behaviour and physical health and gets in the way of day-to-day life.
It’s Not the Same as Baby Blues
More women experience baby blues after childbirth, but this is not the same as postpartum depression. Baby blues have similar symptoms of PPD, but those feelings don’t last nearly as long and usually go away naturally after a few days or a week. PPD symptoms last much longer and the emotions are more intense.
Baby blues are more like mood swings. New mothers have to grapple with being a mum for the first time and everything that goes with it. Of course, they’re going to feel anxious, stressed and upset at times. The sudden hormonal changes can do a lot to a woman’s mind and body, but the hormones eventually level out and women can handle the feelings independently.
It’s Fairly Common
You are not alone if you suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, about one in eight women will experience PPD in their lifetime. Postpartum depression estimates can vary by state, age and race, and can be as high as one in five women in some parts of the world.
Additionally, PPD is often higher for first-time mothers. However, it can happen to mothers who have had many kids, and it can reoccur in each pregnancy. Rates may be even higher than estimates because not all women will report or seek help if they think they have postpartum depression. PPD is more common in women who have had a history of depression, too.
It Can Affect Your Child
Postpartum depression can make it more difficult for you to care for yourself and also your baby. If your PPD goes on without treatment:
- You might end up skipping your postpartum checkups for you and your baby, which can lead to other health and developmental problems.
- It may be more challenging to bond with your child, which can affect breastfeeding.
- Your newborn may not get the medical attention they need.
Getting the proper treatment and recognising that you or a loved one may be suffering from PPD can better the chances of the new baby thriving.
It Comes with Many Signs and Symptoms
Mothers will often feel overwhelmed when they bring their new babies home. There are regular hormonal changes that occur, and being a mother poses a new lifestyle all in itself. However, there are signs and symptoms that may be leading to PPD. If these occur for more than two weeks, then you need to seek medical attention:
- Feeling hopeless, sad and overwhelmed
- Crying more than normal
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Feeling like a bad mother or worthless
- Changing sleep patterns
- Withdrawing from friends, family and life in general
- Not having any interest in your newborn
- Eating too little or too much
- Having physical pains, like headaches and stomach aches, that won’t go away
New mothers or even mums who have had other children may feel ashamed or embarrassed if they feel depressed (although its OK to feel this way) and may not seek the help they need. You don’t have to suffer, though — reach out to a doctor if you or someone you know experiences these symptoms.
It Can Be Prevented
While PPD is treatable, it can also be somewhat prevented. If you have had depression in the past, you can get counselling before giving birth to discuss your feelings about having a child.
Two kinds of counselling can work best to prevent PPD for women at an increased risk. The first is cognitive-behavioural therapy, which helps you manage negative thoughts by changing your thoughts and actions. The second is interpersonal therapy, which helps you identify and deal with problems in your life.
There is hope for those who have PPD. The earlier you seek medical help, though, the better off you and your baby will be. Common types of treatment for postpartum depression include therapy, medicines prescribed by your doctor and, in severe cases, electroconvulsive therapy.
At home, you should rest as much as possible. Additionally, talk to your partner, join a support group and make time to visit with other people.
Take It One Day at a Time
With time and support, you can make it through this season of Post partum depression. You are not alone.
This article was written by writer Kara Reynolds, editor in chief at Momish.