After childbirth, it is common for women to experience “baby blues” or mild depressive symptoms. For most women, “baby blues” subside within a few weeks. But for some, they can last much longer and become more severe. If this happens, you may be suffering from postpartum depression (PPD).
What is Postpartum Depression?
As the name suggests, postpartum depression is a type of clinical depression that can occur in women after childbirth. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of mothers will experience postpartum depression following childbirth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can range from mild to severe and can interfere with the mother’s ability to bond with and provide quality care for her child.
“Baby Blues” VS Postpartum Depression
Since the so-called baby blues and postpartum depression involve depressive symptoms, it can be hard to differentiate them. However, there are some key differences.
“Baby blues” typically begin within a few days of childbirth and last for a few weeks. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can start any time during the first 18 months after childbirth and can go on for months or years if left untreated.
Additionally, the symptoms of “baby blues” are usually milder than those associated with postpartum depression.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
The exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown. But several factors may contribute to its development. These include:
Hormonal changes: After childbirth, there is a rapid drop in estrogen levels in a woman’s body. This can lead to mood swings and feelings of sadness or depression.
Lack of sleep: New parents often have difficulty getting enough sleep, contributing to fatigue, irritability, and depression.
Life changes: Having a baby is a significant life event that can be stressful. Becoming a parent can also be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first child. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.
History of mental illness: Studies suggest that if you have a history of mental illness, you are more likely to develop postpartum depression than a person with no depression history. This also applies if you have a family history of depression.
Lack of social support: Lack of social support can make it difficult to cope with the demands of caring for a newborn. You may feel rejected and all alone. This can trigger or worsen postpartum depression.
Other risk factors for postpartum depression include poor nutrition, stressful life events, complications during childbirth, history of substance abuse, and chronic medical conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Chronic sadness
- Crying more than usual
- Loss of interest in activities
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Low self-esteem
- Irritability or anger
- Loss of appetite or eating more than usual
- Fatigue and reduced energy levels
- Persistent headaches, stomachaches, or other physical discomforts
- Decreased sex drive
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
Can Postpartum Depression Affect Fathers?
It’s not just mothers who experience postpartum depression. New fathers can develop postpartum depression, as well. Commonly known as paternal postpartum depression, this condition is thought to affect up to 25 percent of new fathers.
Symptoms of postpartum depression in fathers include chronic sadness, anxiety, irritability, change in eating habits, and fatigue. Paternal postpartum depression can also interfere with the father’s ability to bond with his child and support his partner emotionally.
What Causes Paternal Postpartum Depression?
Like PDD, the exact cause of paternal postpartum depression is unknown. However, several factors may contribute to its development. These factors include financial stress, sleep deprivation, a history of mental illness, and relationship problems.
Treating Postpartum Depression
If you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression, it’s essential to seek professional help as soon as possible. Postpartum depression not only affects your physical and emotional health, but can also have a lasting impact on your child’s overall well-being.
If left untreated, postpartum depression can lead to more serious problems, such as severe anxiety and child neglect/abuse. Fortunately, postpartum depression is highly treatable with medication, therapy, or both.
Medications are mainly used to help stabilize mood and help improve symptoms. At the same time, therapy provides the support and guidance a patient needs to adjust to parenthood and cope with the daily challenges of caring for a child.