Though often celebrated by many in society and within the family, childbirth can also trigger great fear and anxiety in the mother or the father of the child. At times, the anxiety only lasts for a few days or weeks before fading away. However, the fear and anxiety following childbirth can also develop into postpartum depression.
For most mothers, experiencing postpartum (popularly referred to as baby blues) is a normal occurrence after childbirth. Symptoms associated with baby blues include anxiety, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and crying spells. A typical baby blues episode will begin a day or two after delivery and might last for up to two weeks max.
Whenever these symptoms persist beyond two weeks or intensify, the condition is referred to as postpartum depression. In some cases, the mother or father can suffer extreme mood disorders known as postpartum psychosis. In this article, we will focus on explaining why postpartum depression occurs, signs and symptoms, and how to seek professional help.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression, often abbreviated as PPD, is a complex mix of emotional, behavioral, and physical changes that happen to mothers after giving birth. PPD is categorized as a form of major depression as per the DSM-5 (the manual used to diagnose mental disorders).
Postpartum depression diagnosis is based on the length of time when the symptoms persist as well as the severity of the symptoms. The condition is always linked to psychological, chemical, and social changes that occur during childbirth.
PPD is treatable through medication and counseling.
The Signs and Symptoms of Baby Blues, PPD, and Postpartum Psychosis
Since the three conditions vary in intensity, it is prudent that we analyze their signs and symptoms separately. On the one hand, baby blues is normal and does not require much medical intervention. On the other hand, PPD and postpartum psychosis exhibit severe depression, needing professional medical intervention.
Signs and Symptoms of Baby Blues
Baby blues signs and symptoms start showing a few days after delivery and last for a week or two after childbirth. These symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of appetite
- Reduced concentration
- Feeling overwhelmed
If you are only having the signs and symptoms listed above within the first two weeks after giving birth, you don’t have to freak out – it’s normal. However, if the symptoms persist for over two weeks, please be sure to seek professional help.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
It’s easy to mistake Postpartum depression for baby blues, especially during its initial stages. As time progresses, though, the signs will intensify and last longer, affecting your ability to care for your newborn and handle daily tasks.
In most cases, the signs and symptoms will start showing within the first few weeks after childbirth, but it is also possible for a mother to develop the symptoms during pregnancy. The signs and symptoms of PPD include:
- Difficulty bonding with the child
- Severe mood swings
- Loss of appetite or eating too much
- Excessive crying
- Insomnia (inability to sleep) or sleeping too much
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling hopeless
- Severe anger and irritability
- Fear that you will not make a good mother
- Loss of energy or overwhelming fatigue
- Feelings of inadequacy, shame, guilt, or worthlessness
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Panic attacks and severe anxiety
- Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the newborn
- Low concentration and diminished ability to think straight
If you or your loved one is showing any or more of these signs and symptoms, chances are that you/they are suffering from PPD. Seeking professional PPD treatment will help you or your loved one regain control over their lives.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition with more intense signs and symptoms than PPD. The condition develops within the first week after childbirth. Signs and symptoms of Postpartum psychosis include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Disorientation and confusion
- Delusions and hallucinations
- Obsessive thoughts about the newborn
- Attempts to harm yourself or the baby
- Agitation and excessive energy
Postpartum psychosis is more life-threatening compared to PPD and requires immediate medical intervention.
Causes and Risk Factors
Having PPD doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. Medical experts believe that postpartum depression occurs for numerous reasons, and the reasons often vary from patient to patient. Some of the issues that can trigger PPD include:
- Age at the time of pregnancy. Young mothers are the most affected
- A history of depression before or during pregnancy
- Family history of mental disorders
- Ambivalence about your pregnancy
- Giving birth to a child with health complications or special needs
- Experiencing extremely stressful events like a health crisis or job loss
- Limited social support
- Having a history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder or depression
- Marital conflict
- Living alone
Scientifically, there are no established causes of depression, but the emotional and physical issues listed below can play a part:
Lack of sleep: Being sleep-deprived can result in you having trouble managing minor problems
Change in Hormones: The sudden drop in progesterone and estrogen after childbirth also triggers PPD. A drop in hormones produced by the thyroid gland can also make you feel sluggish, tired, and depressed.
Poor Self-image: Feeling less attractive or struggling with your identity after giving birth can also contribute to PPD.
Anxiety: Being anxious about your ability to raise and care for the child is yet another possible cause.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
There are different ways of treating PPD depending on the symptoms and their severity. Available treatment options include psychotherapy, antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications, and participation in support groups for emotional support.
For a severe case of postpartum psychosis, medications used for psychosis treatment can be prescribed. Inpatient admission is also necessary.
When taking PPD medication for anxiety, depression, or psychosis, it is important that you talk to your doctor about how that affects your breastfeeding routine.
If you or someone you love is struggling with PPD, contact My Psychiatrist to book an appointment with one of our specialists. We have offices across south Florida and provide virtual telemedicine appointments for clients in all Florida.