For most women, childbirth is one of the toughest kinds of pain they have to go through. Carrying a baby in a woman’s womb for nine months, is already stressful as it is, but giving birth takes the cake. It is no easy task. More than anything, it requires patience and dedication. But in some cases, women—even after giving birth—are not ready to be mothers yet. In those instances, mothers exhibit postpartum depression symptoms or symptoms of the baby blues.
In this article, we will focus on postpartum depression: its risk factors, causes, symptoms, and tips on how to combat it. Also, we’ll briefly touch upon baby blues. Preggy to Mommy believes that it is crucial to talk about this kind of depression to help new mothers understand that it is reasonable to feel the way they feel. We would also like to help provide ways on how to cope with depression. For mothers’ loved ones, we hope that by the end of this article, you also pick up tips on how to deal with and extend support for the mother with postpartum depression symptoms.
What Is the Difference Between Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression Symptoms?
After giving birth, most mothers experience “baby blues,” a temporary phase typically characterized by frequent mood swings, appetite problems, anxiety, sadness, irritability, sleep problems, feeling overwhelmed, and reduced concentration. These signs and symptoms last a few days to a week or two after childbirth.
On the other hand, postpartum depression symptoms last longer and are usually more severe. Signs and symptoms include severe mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, intense irritability and anger, insomnia, overwhelming fatigue or energy loss, restlessness, loss of appetite, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from family and friends, reduced ability to think clearly or make decisions, and repetitive thoughts of hurting either yourself or your baby.
Postpartum depression symptoms usually begin a few weeks after childbirth and last up to a year. In some cases, the depression starts during pregnancy.
Everything You Need to Know About Baby Blues
According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 70-80% of new mothers go through negative feelings or mood swings after childbirth. Four to five days after giving birth, the symptoms of baby blues are already noticeable. However, depending on how the woman’s labor went, symptoms may be experienced earlier.
The following are symptoms of baby blues:
- Frequent mood swings
- Appetite problems
- Sleep problems
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Crying for no apparent reason
Usually, these symptoms gradually disappear within fourteen days post-delivery. Otherwise, you may already be experiencing postpartum depression symptoms.
What Is Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition that only a few new mothers experience within the first two weeks after delivery. According to Postpartum Support International, this condition occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of 1,000 births. The signs and symptoms of this condition are severe, including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Confusion and disorientation
- Hyperactivity, or excessive energy and agitation
- Difficulty communicating at times
- Obsessive thoughts about your baby
- Attempts to harm yourself or your bab
Risk factors for postpartum psychosis include previous psychotic episodes or a personal or family history of bipolar disorder. Due to its severity, this condition requires immediate treatment. If left unmanaged, postpartum psychosis may lead to destructive behavior. Even if most women who go through postpartum psychosis do not hurt themselves or other, there is still a risk of danger. After all, psychosis may entail irrational judgment and delusional thinking.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression, as the name suggests, it is depression developed after childbirth. It is usual for most new mothers to have baby blues within days after giving birth. However, if your baby blues persist for longer than two weeks, you may already be exhibiting postpartum depression symptoms.
Postpartum depression is a mental illness that affects your physical health and your behavior as well. If left unmanaged, the symptoms you are exhibiting can already affect your disposition and your day-to-day activities.
A recent study shows that 1 in 9 new mothers has postpartum depression symptoms. This finding tells us that unlike postpartum psychosis, postpartum depression symptoms remain common. However, this condition is just something that several women experience after childbirth. It is not a prerequisite occurrence for new mothers.
Postpartum Depression in Fathers
According to the Postpartum Support International, 1 in 10 fathers suffer from postpartum depression symptoms. This finding means that childbirth actually affects not just the mother, but the entire family as well. Paternal postpartum depression may have similar negative implications on the relationship and child development as the usual postpartum depression in mothers have.
Those who are more at risk of having postpartum depression are young new fathers, fathers who have financial problems, and fathers who have a history of depression.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Severe mood swings
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy as a mother
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Reduced ability to think clearly and make decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Typically, the postpartum depression symptoms persist up to a year.
Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression
All mothers–even those who have already had experienced giving birth–are at risk of developing postpartum depression symptoms. However, your risk of developing the depression increases in the following instances:
- Your pregnancy was unwanted
- When you had postpartum depression after a previous childbirth
- There is a history of depression
- You have family members who have had depression
- You have bipolar disorder
- Your baby has special needs or is not in a good health condition
- The relationship with your partner is problematic
- There is a lack of stable support system from loved ones and friends
- Having breastfeeding difficulty
- There are financial problems
- Experiencing alcoholism or drug problems
- You are under 20 years old
The risk of developing postpartum depression symptoms is higher in those instances due to the mother’s current emotional and mental state. It may be too hard for her to process that she has a new baby to take care of on top of her existing responsibilities.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
There is no fixed set of causes of postpartum depression, but the changes that new mothers go through throughout the pregnancy journey, and even after, contribute to the roots of the depression.
One possible cause of postpartum depression symptoms is the physical changes to a mother’s body after childbirth. In this instance, a new mother may feel less attractive, unwanted, and unworthy of love and appreciation because of how her body looks after delivery. In turn, this feeling of unworthiness may lead to depression.
Hormonal changes may also trigger postpartum depression symptoms. Levels of female hormones estrogen and progesterone rapidly drop back to pre-pregnancy levels within the first 24 hours after childbirth. This sudden change in hormone levels may lead to depression.
Other emotions and feelings may also contribute to postpartum depression symptoms. These feelings include being tired from lack of sleep, overwhelming feeling of having a new baby, doubts on the ability to be a good mother, stress from labor and delivery, and stress from changes in work and personal routine.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression
If you are at risk of developing postpartum depression symptoms, it is best to inform your physician as soon as you find out you are pregnant. This consultation happens to help monitor your signs and symptoms during pregnancy and help prevent mild symptoms from turning into severe depression. However, if you have already given birth, the following are common treatments for postpartum depression:
Your physician may prescribe anti-depressants that help relieve symptoms of depression. Some of these are suitable for breastfeeding moms. In some cases, your physician may also prescribe Esketamine. However, since the latter may hurt the baby, it cannot be taken while breastfeeding.
You may talk to a psychologist or a social worker to understand and process your emotions better. They may also provide help on how to change your way of thinking or how you respond to situations.
Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Electroconvulsive therapy is a procedure in which small electric currents are intentionally passed through the brain to trigger a brief seizure. This procedure aims to transform brain chemistry and treat severe mental conditions such as severe depression, especially if accompanied by psychosis. There is only a need to resort to this procedure if the postpartum depression symptoms you exhibit are already extreme.
Tips on How to Combat Postpartum Depression
The following are helpful tips for new mothers who have postpartum depression symptoms.
Seek Professional Help
It is difficult for new mothers to get the brain to process the journey from pregnancy to childbirth. It may be tough to eventually accept that you have to go through a complete lifestyle change when you have to care for a newborn. Talking to a professional can help you understand what you are experiencing, and devise strategies to help you battle the depression.
Bond with Your Baby
It will help if you make a secure attachment with your baby. This attachment can be as simple as smiling back if your baby smiles, or calming and touching your baby if your baby cries. This connection you form with your child could significantly impact the child’s development, and affect how the child will communicate with you.
Remember to Take Time for Yourself
Taking care of a newborn baby can take its toll on your overall health. You must not force yourself to do tasks you typically do before giving birth. You can take better care of your child if you also take good care of your physical and mental well-being. Do get as much sleep as you can. Always eat proper, nutritious food on time and, finally, pamper yourself. Some exercises, like walking, stretching, and yoga can also help in improving your holistic health.
Surround Yourself with a Stable Support System
It is usual for mothers with postpartum depression to be closed off and distant from family and friends. As long as you do not withdraw from your loved ones for a considerable amount of time, it is fine. It is okay to take breaks for yourself. However, it would help if you reach out to other people, especially your partner. It is okay to ask for help or to vent to other people when you feel overwhelmed by everything happening.
Remind Yourself that You Are Not Alone
A lot of new mothers go through the same experience and the same phase as you. It is not something peculiar to you. Remind yourself that it is not your fault that your body is different, or that you are overwhelmed with emotions. Remind yourself that it is okay. Keep telling yourself that you are still loved; you are worthy; you are doing your absolute best to be a good mother; and that you are doing great.
Tips on How to Support Mothers with Postpartum Depression
The following are helpful tips for fathers, partners, and other loved ones in dealing with mothers with postpartum depression symptoms.
Help Seek Professional Help
There is a tendency for new mothers to bear the burden of having depression on her own. She withdraws from her friends and loved ones. This behavior could be done out of shame or because she cannot process the possibility of her developing the symptoms. There is a possibility that a new mother will not talk about it or reach out to help herself. You have to speak to her and tell her you are willing to extend support in seeking professional guidance.
Provide Her with Emotional Support
Even if the mother tells you she is okay, you should still be there for her. Provide her with an assurance that she is not alone and that you are willing to listen to her talk about her feelings when she is ready to talk.
Be Patient with Her
It is hard to get the mother to talk when she is not ready yet. Do not force her to communicate when she does not want to. Do not force her to do anything sexual with you if she is not emotionally and physically ready. She is going through a tough time. It will help if you are patient with her.
Try to Offer Other Forms of Support
To help ease the burden on the mother, ask her to take breaks for herself. In turn, offer to do simple tasks on her behalf. These tasks can be running errands, doing household chores, and looking after the baby.
Always Check In with Her
It would help a lot and would be appreciated if you ask the mother how she is coping from time to time. It does not have to be every single day, but it would help her feel less alone in her condition if you check in with her or offer her company.
In sum, new mothers go through a lot from pregnancy to childbirth. Having a baby, especially when the mother did not plan to have a baby, is a lot of work. It entails responsibilities, sleep deprivation, and a complete change in lifestyle. That said, it is pretty standard for mothers to feel overwhelmed with emotions to develop postpartum depression symptoms. No one asked to feel all the things they may be feeling. Postpartum depression symptoms just come as a package in most mothers’ pregnancy journey. In turn, we, the people around them, should lend support in whatever way we can. No matter what, we must not add to their burden. Instead, we should let them feel understood and loved.