Postpartum Depression in Women : Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

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The struggle that women face in the process of childbirth is something that is not only a miracle but also a really, really tough time for them. There is usually care given to the mother while pregnant, but more often than not she is neglected after the child is born due to various reasons. There are also real questions around the ‘maternal instincts’ in women and the expectation to be a great mother as well. This is where we need to think about women and the struggles they face after they have given birth. Mental health struggles such as anxiety and sadness are natural with the territory that is motherhood. This is where we are able to see the onset (in some women) of what we call Postpartum Depression or post-pregnancy depression- but what exactly is it?

Overview of Postpartum Depression

It is a disorder that comes under the broad umbrella term of depression. It is a mood disorder that is accompanied by a combination of emotional, behavioural and physical changes in women after childbirth.

Postpartum depression symptoms: What you should know.

It is generally seen that signs of postpartum depression start showing within 4 weeks or so after the baby is delivered. It varies for different people, but this is a general timeline assumed. In some cases, research says that the father isn’t completely unaffected, they are also susceptible to getting postpartum depression, about 1 in 10 new fathers are at risk of developing this.

How is it diagnosed?

It is natural that we do not self-diagnose- it is always good to check with your doctor/psychologist if you or a loved one is going through some changes after they have given birth. Diagnosis is usually done on the basis of how intense the symptoms of depression are. Diagnosis can be obtained from a mental health professional like a psychiatrist, or a psychologist.

What causes postpartum depression?

There is not enough research on the matter, but experts believe that it is caused by the sudden changes in the mother’s body after she gives birth. This can be linked to the drop in hormones, which are definitely not as active as they needed to be during the gestation period. The amount of reproductive hormones in women (progesterone and oestrogen) usually is ten times the amount while the mother is pregnant, and after birth, they fall sharply.

In addition to these, there are various psychological changes in having a baby that could be seen as postpartum depression causes. Needless to say, no matter how prepared one can be (and one should be) to have a baby, it is a very stressful experience for the mother (and her family, if she has one around here), which if not handled properly can be bad for her mental health.  A history of depression can also be a probable cause for it to manifest after childbirth.

We also need to consider social factors around the mother. The support she receives and the way she is able to feel about the state of her motherhood are also important things to consider. One’s age is also a factor, in this case, the younger the mother the more likely you are to get postpartum depression. If you are not sure about the baby, that can also cause intense feelings of sadness, which could lead to depression as well.

Postpartum Depression Signs and Symptoms

Again, it is never advisable to self-diagnose, but there are general symptoms that one can look out for in women after they give birth.

  • Sleeplessness
  • Relentless fatigue
  • Changing appetite
  • Random changes in mood
  • Feeling unbothered by the presence of the baby
  • Unrelentless crying, usually without cause
  • Severe anger
  • Loss of a sense of pleasure and libido
  • Presence of intense negative emotions of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideation/thoughts about death
  • Developments of irrational fears about the baby’s health
  • Panic attacks
  • Trouble making coherent thoughts and decisions
  • Postnatal psychosis

There aren’t all, but these are mostly the general symptoms that can be looked out for.

Catching postpartum depression quickly

Ideally in the following circumstances, a new mother should definitely get the help that they deserve:

  • If the postpartum symptoms persist for over 2 weeks
  • Normal day-to-day functioning is hampered
  • Normal day-to-day coping is hampered
  • If there are ideas of self-harm or to the baby
  • If there are feelings of extreme fear, anxiety and panic for most part of the day
  • If Postpartum psychosis symptoms appear

Postpartum Depression Treatment

The treatment varies on the intensity of the depression that one has. There are antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that are prescribed in most cases, as well as therapies such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. Postpartum depression counselling or psychotherapy should be availed only through a trained mental health professional. Participation in support groups, either online or in real life is also usually recommended for the emotional support and knowledge gaining aspect it provides.

What can a new mother do to prevent serious symptoms of post-delivery depression?

It is advisable to be in touch with your doctor if you have a previous history of depression and if you are planning to get pregnant/are pregnant. While pregnant, monitoring emotional state and physical state is key. It might be wise to join support groups and therapy now itself if one shows some symptoms of depression in the early stages of pregnancy because the earlier the treatment and detection the better. In some cases, you might even get prescribed medication if the situation calls for it. If this isn’t your first child and you are pregnant with another, do talk to your doctor who might be treating you for the same, especially if you’ve had postpartum depression before.

In conclusion

You aren’t alone in this. There are many, many mothers who have gone through the same thing, if not something very similar. It is very normal to have some feelings of anxiety and sadness after giving birth, but if it starts meddling with your every day going about, then that is the time you should consider getting help. Motherhood is not something that is easy, and a support system, in some way shape or form, is crucial in making the process easier. In this case, it is fully treatable, and you can get better in no time if you choose to get the right help at the right time. Never be afraid of reaching out to get help, because it is pretty common, and this has larger concerns. Firstly, yourself, secondly your baby, and thirdly your loved ones around you. Do it for yourself, and do it for them.

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