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Postpartum Depression - What is It, Signs, Treatment

Mom Health / Jul 13, 2022 / Vetted by Dr Jasmin Rajesh, MBBS, MD (Ped.)
postpartum depression in new mothers

A baby's birth can evoke a range of intense emotions, from excitement and joy to sadness and anxiety. Given the new responsibilities and sleep deprivation, it's not surprising that most mothers experience a mixed bag of feelings for a while. However, some new mothers may show signs of postpartum depression symptoms, a more severe and long-lasting form of depression.

What is postpartum depression?

Many women feel restless, anxious, overwhelmed, and emotionally fragile after having a baby. These feelings, are commonly referred to as "baby blues. They usually begin a few days after childbirth, peak around one week, and fade within two weeks. Baby blues are normal, but if these feelings don't go away or worsen after a few weeks, they may be signs of postpartum depression.
A combination of stress, fatigue, sleep deprivation and sudden hormonal changes after childbirth can lead to postpartum depression. Although it can affect any woman, it is more likely to occur in the following circumstances:
  • A previous history of anxiety or depression
  • Family history of depression
  • First-time mom or motherhood at a very young age
  • Having a baby with medical problems
  • Stressful life events
  • Marital or financial problems
  • Lack of social support

What are the signs of postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression symptoms may vary from one woman to another. They can appear days, weeks, or even months after giving birth and can last for weeks or months if left untreated. Common postpartum depression symptoms include:
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, worried, or overwhelmed
  • Feeling scared, anxious, or irritable
  • Crying a lot
  • Having mood swings and trouble concentrating
  • Not feeling attached to the baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of interest in things that are usually enjoyable
  • Sleeping or eating too little or much more than usual
  • Feeling worthless, guilty or miserable 
  • Fear of having to take care of your baby all alone
  • Fear of being a bad mother

Some women may have other serious postpartum depression symptoms, such as:

  • Thoughts of causing harm to their baby or themselves
  • Confusion, delusions (mistrustful or very suspicious), hallucinations (seeing things that are not there or hearing voices), and disorientation

How to deal with postpartum depression? When to seek help?

Experiencing after delivery depression does not make you a bad mother or a bad person. Many other women have had similar experiences to you. You just need to give yourself some time, and with some help and care, you will eventually get out of it. Here’s how to deal with postpartum depression:
  • Talk to your partner, friends, and family about your feelings.
  • Reach out to people who can help you with household chores, daily errands, and childcare.
  • Do whatever it takes to get enough rest and sleep.
  • Keep yourself healthy; go for a run, take a walk, or exercise as soon as your doctor says it’s okay.
  • Establish healthy eating habits. It will improve both your mood and the quality of your breastmilk.
  • Join a support group for new mothers.
  • Practice meditation. It will keep you calm and energised.
  • Set aside some time for yourself.
  • Find ways to pamper yourself, such as getting a massage or soaking in a bubble bath.
  • Every day, spend at least 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun. It will lift your spirits.
  • New baby responsibilities take a toll on your relationship with your partner. So, set aside some time just for the two of you.

Seek help right away if you suspect you have signs of postpartum depression. Begin by consulting your doctor so that they can prescribe medications, perform blood tests to rule out other conditions, and recommend a psychiatrist or psychologist to aid you in overcoming your depression. Counseling and antidepressant medications are frequently used in postpartum depression treatment.

If your partner is experiencing postpartum depression symptoms, the best thing you can do is be patient and supportive — listen to her feelings, help with housework and childcare duties, and ensure she gets enough time to relax and rest.

Most importantly, don't assume that there is nothing that can be done about postpartum depression. There are several ways to overcome depression, and help is always available if you seek it.

 

References:

  1. HelpGuide. Postpartum depression and the baby blues [2020].
  2. American Psychological Association. What is postpartum depression & anxiety.
  3. Healthychildren.org. Depression during & after pregnancy: you are not alone [2018]. 
  4. KidsHealth. Postpartum depression [2020].
  5. Familydoctor.org. Postpartum depression (PPD) [2020]. 

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