Giving birth to a baby can activate a myriad of overwhelming emotions, ranging from joyfulness and bliss to distress and anxiety. In many cases, the birth of a baby can activate something even more powerful and unexpected: depression.
It is estimated that 40 to 80 percent of all mothers experience the postpartum blues that usually begin in a few days after delivery and can last for a week or two. However, postpartum depression is a more severe condition than postpartum blues, more intense, and more long-lasting.
These feelings of sadness and helplessness are highly common after childbirth since new moms face a lot of challenges and emotional roller-coasters getting used to life with a baby. It’s vital to understand the symptoms and reach out to family and friends, and medical professionals for help.
What is postpartum depression
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that you get after you have given birth to a baby. The condition starts any time during your baby’s first year, most commonly during the first 3 weeks after birth, and can linger on for months. If you feel utterly hopeless, beyond sad, and entirely guilty, if you don’t feel like bonding with your baby or taking care of it, you most likely have the postpartum blues/depression.
It’s a deeply-rooted emotional pain that is experienced by 1 of every 7 women, or roughly 10% of all new mothers. Depression and anxiety don’t just affect first-time moms, even if you have previously given birth, you can still have it.
What causes it?
There’s no single cause of postpartum anxiety/depression, it’s rather a mixture of many factors:
- Family history of depression. If depression runs in your family or if you suffered from depression at some point in your life, you may be more likely to have postpartum depression.
- Hormone levels. After giving birth, you experience a considerable drop in hormones in your body (estrogen and progesterone). This may lead to postpartum depression. Apart from estrogen and progesterone, the hormones produced by your thyroid gland may also drop instantly. This results in feeling depressed, tired, and slow-moving.
- Emotional stress and problems. New moms are continuously tired and sleep-deprived. As a consequence, you may find yourself having troubles handling problems, even the minor ones. If your partner and family don’t help you care for your baby, you’re more likely to become depressed. Perinatal depression is also more common with moms with money issues, or problems with alcohol and drugs. Also at risk are very young women who aren’t prepared to care or support a baby.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
If you experience five or more of the following symptoms every day, for 14 consecutive days, then you could be suffering from perinatal depression. The symptoms include:
- Crying all the time
- Great sadness and hopelessness
- Trouble sleeping at night or trouble staying awake during the day
- Lack of interest to perform daily activities and hobbies
- Unintentional weight loss or weight gain
- Loss of concentration
- Irritability and anger
- Avoiding friends and family
- Worrying excessively
- Lack of interest to care for your baby
- Trouble bonding with your baby
- Extreme exhausting
- Fearing you’re not a good mother
- Constant mood swings, anxiety or panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming your baby
- Suicide thoughts or suicide attempts
Note: If you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts about hurting your baby, contact your provider immediately.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
If you are experiencing these symptoms, talk to your doctor or mental health professional. Only a doctor can give you a diagnosis and suggest treatment that will help you get back to a happy life as a mom.
Your doctor may recommend that you start meeting with a counselor on a regular basis and that you start taking antidepressant medications. Although postpartum depression can go away on its own, medication and therapies with a counselor can speed up the healing process. The antidepressants will help balance certain brain chemicals linked to depression, while talking to a counselor can help you deal with your negative thoughts more efficiently.
In addition, there are many other things you can do to feel better, including:
- Practicing mindfulness meditation
- Learning how to bond with your baby
- Surrounding yourself with people you love and care about
- Exercising on a daily basis
- Setting aside quality time for yourself
- Getting plenty of rest
- Establishing healthy eating patterns
- Getting out in the sunshine