Depression is a serious mental health problem facing millions of people in the United States. Postpartum depression implies an episode of depression that is nonpsychotic and occurs during pregnancy and within the first months after childbirth. Welcoming a newborn is meant to be the happiest time in the life of a parent. The expectation of most people is that new parents should be happy and giggling. However, this is not always the case, as some new moms feel overwhelmed and scared about the changing responsibilities. Others feel resentful and inadequate instead of feelings of adoration towards their newborns. These feelings are more common than most people think and do not make those who go through them bad mothers. In this article, we highlight the issue of postpartum depression and how new moms can get the help they need.
Defining Postpartum Depression | What Is It?
Postpartum depression can be defined as a form of depression that some mothers go through during the first few weeks or months following the birth of their babies. Research suggests that about ten to sixteen women in the United States struggle with postpartum depression. Some of them start developing depressive symptoms in the last months of their pregnancy. If the woman fails to seek therapy for the postpartum depression for longer periods, the recovery is likely to be more complicated, and there is a higher risk of suicide. The depression can persist for long after the baby has been born and can have serious mental health implications.
Although it is normal for some new moms to feel drained after birth, baby blues that last for more than two weeks can be debilitating. Depression of this nature hinders your ability to not only take care of yourself but also care for the baby effectively.
What makes postpartum depression even more complicated is than most people expect new parents to be happy and excited about having a newborn. No one prepares you for the possibility of overwhelming anxiety and sadness that affects thousands of women across the world. While the disorder is serious, there is a possibility of effective treatment.
Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevalence of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a condition that affects about six percent of women during pregnancy and new mothers. Of these cases, fifty percent start during the pregnancy period, before, or immediately after childbirth. There is no evidence to show a precise cause of postpartum depression, although it is clear that mothers are not at fault. Researchers currently believe that these factors combine in the causation of postpartum depression:
After giving birth, mothers experience a plummeting in the level of two specific hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The withdrawal in the level of these hormones creates some form of a chemical imbalance in the brain that can activate depression.
There is also a genetic element in the predisposition to postpartum depression. Evidence shows that a family history of major depression or other mental illnesses can increase the risk of postpartum depression. Further research is required in the genetics area.
It’s another important aspect of the causation of postpartum depression. After childbirth, new mothers face tons of responsibilities, and physical exhaustion can be an issue. Also, there are issues relating to sleep deprivation and constant worry about the health of both mother and child. These important issues can activate symptoms that end up turning into postpartum depression. Exposure to stressors like job loss, the tension in marriage, familial problems, and lack of social support can also play key roles.
What Are the Key Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Although postpartum depression is a serious mental health problem for many women in the United States, diagnosis is still a problematic issue. This form of depression can trigger various symptoms varying from one person to the next. Some common ones include:
- Agitation or irritability;
- Episodes of crying without an apparent cause;
- Loss of appetite;
- Constant feelings of shame or guilt;
- Inexplicable aches and pain in different parts of the body;
- Feelings of anxiety and excessive worry;
- Insomnia and changes in sleep patterns;
- Concentration lapses;
- Isolation and social withdrawal;
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
In more serious incidences, this form of depression can present through suicidal ideation and psychotic symptoms. If proper therapy is not sought on time, these symptoms can present safety challenges for both mother and child.
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
Although postpartum depression is a serious condition that may appeal like a never-ending struggle, effective treatment is possible. It is recommended that those struggling with this condition seek treatment that combines several types of therapy.
There are many different therapy options available that can help when it comes to managing postpartum depression. For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy helps mothers identify underlying issues through a process that may contribute to depression and change them. CBT also helps people to understand the symptoms of depression and coping mechanisms. It is often suggested the CBT be used alongside family therapy when it comes to PPD. It helps provide insights into how family members can offer support and create an environment that enables recovery.
Another option in the treatment of postpartum depression is medications, mostly used to treat symptoms of the disorder. In some severe cases, antidepressants may be subscribed to help reduce symptoms such as irritability and sadness. Where psychosis has been diagnosed, antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed. In some cases, mood stabilizers may be used for treating self-harm habits and irritability.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy is another effective type of treatment, most preferred in more severe cases. The strategy is mostly used in situations when symptoms of postpartum depression fail to dissipate after other forms of treatment have been used.
Recommended Lifestyle Strategies
Together with engaging a professional therapist to help with recovering from postpartum depression, there are lifestyle changes that may be necessary. Here are some modifications that patients ought to consider making to hasten recovery:
- Don’t hesitate to seek help;
- Exercise regularly;
- Develop healthy eating habits;
- Get adequate rest;
- Get social support.
How to Get Competent Help
It is important to reiterate that, while postpartum depression is quite common, treatment is available. For if you or someone close to you shows symptoms of this form of depression, the best thing to do is look for a therapist who can offer assistance. Getting assistance as soon as possible increases the pace and effectiveness of therapy.