Giving birth is perhaps one of the greatest miracles of nature. The experience can be highly rewarding yet stressful, especially for new mothers. Amidst all the excitement of welcoming the little one into your life, many women may feel overwhelmed or sad and low. It is quite normal and is a result of the sudden change in hormone levels after delivery. However, a few women may continue to feel for up to several months, and they may go through a condition known as ‘postpartum depression.’
So what exactly is postpartum depression? How can one identify the symptoms and seek professional help? Are there some ways you can minimize the risk of experiencing it? These are some of the aspects that we will explore so we can understand the condition better and help ourselves or anyone suffering from the state.
Baby Blues Vs. Postpartum Depression Vs. Postpartum Psychosis
You might have come across the term ‘baby blues’ quite frequently before. As mentioned above, it is alright to experience some sort of sadness after giving birth. Our bodies undergo drastic changes from the time of pregnancy leading up to delivery (and even beyond that).
One of the significant changes takes place in our hormones. During pregnancy, your reproductive hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, are high. Immediately after the delivery, these hormones start to decline and, as a consequence, may put you in a lower mood.
Additionally, lack of sleep and the process of adjusting to the newborn may make you more irritable. One minute you might be happy and content, while the next, you may be grumpy or weepy. These mood swings are known as baby blues and may last for a few weeks following birth, after which they start to improve.
If the condition persists for more than a few weeks with feelings of extreme despair and hopelessness, then it is known as postpartum depression or postnatal depression. This is a severe form of depression resulting from giving birth and may even start a few months after delivery.
Postpartum psychosis, on the other hand, is an extreme form of mental illness that can quickly progress within the first few months after having a baby. The mother may suffer from hallucinations, delusions, and insomnia. Some cases may be so extreme that the mother may end up harming herself or the baby. Thus immediate medical attention and treatment are required.
Understanding Postpartum Depression
According to recent studies, around 70% to 80% of new mothers tend to experience some degree of baby blues for a few days after giving birth, while 1 in 7 women may suffer from postpartum depression.
Here are some of the major causes or risk factors for postpartum depression in women:
- Changes in hormone levels after birth
- History of depression and anxiety
- A difficult delivery
- Lack of sleep
- Stressful home environment
- If you are younger than 20 years
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol
Postpartum depression can really take a toll on your mental health. In fact, it may also end up disrupting your family’s lives and have negative consequences for your family. Research indicates that babies whose mothers suffer from postpartum depression tend to have more behavioral disorders with a higher likelihood of developing anxiety. Interestingly, many new fathers may also develop symptoms of depression alongside their partners who are going through the same.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with postpartum depression are as follows:
- Feeling sad and hopeless
- Frequent episodes of crying
- Having extreme anxiety or panic attacks
- Considering yourself a ‘bad’ mother
- Not being able to take care of the baby
- Unable to bond with the baby
- Lack or excess of sleep and appetite
- Inability to focus or remember things
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
The two major forms of treatment options (often used in combination) for postpartum depression are:
Seeking therapy may prove to be beneficial. A professional counselor may be able to help you understand your condition better and assist you in adopting effective strategies to cope with and lessen the impact of postpartum depression.
You may be advised to use the appropriate medication in order to manage your mood and feel better. The most common type of medicine used for postpartum depression is antidepressants. However, you should never self-medicate and only use the pills if prescribed by a competent psychiatrist.
Tips For Coping With Postpartum Depression
In addition to the treatment plan that you opt for, here are a few tips that you can follow to help you fight the symptoms:
- Be Aware
Having knowledge about postpartum depression is the first step. Prepare yourself beforehand by getting the awareness you might need about baby blues and postpartum depression. It will help you identify the signs earlier and seek help in case you develop symptoms after giving birth.
- Taking Care Of Yourself
We know that looking after a newborn baby is a full-time job. But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. Ensure that you are taking a balanced and nutritious diet with the proper portions of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, along with supplements like Iron and Omega 3s. Moreover, gradually introduce light exercises in your routine to keep your body healthy and mind alert.
- Improve Your Sleep
Lack of sleep is perhaps the major challenge faced by new parents since babies have a very erratic sleeping pattern. Postpartum depression may make falling asleep or having a quality sleep even more difficult. Seek help from your family and loved ones who can look after your baby for a few hours so you can catch up on your sleep.
- Bond With The Baby
Postpartum depression may make it difficult for you to develop an emotional connection with your baby. However, it is essential for both you and the baby and will ultimately help to fight the symptoms of depression. Close physical touch with your baby helps release happy hormones like ‘oxytocin, which is also known as the love or cuddle hormone, which will reduce your feelings of sadness.
- Don’t Hesitate To Ask For Help
Build a support system with your close friends and family, who will be able to assist and guide you in looking after your baby. Having positive interactions are a great way to reduce stress and cater to any parenting challenges that you might be facing. Moreover, don’t feel shy to seek out professional help and advice from your OB/GYN, no matter how trivial the issue may seem.