Postpartum Depression

1 What is Postpartum Depression?

Depression that occurs after a woman gives birth Is referred to as postpartum depression.

Most women experience strong emotions of excitement, joy, fear, and anxiety when they give birth. However, this is not the case in some other women as they develop depression. 

Many women experiece the postpartum baby blues  after childbirth. 

The postpartum baby blues may include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and insomnia. These symptoms usually develop 2-3 days after delivery and may last for uo to  two weeks. 

If baby blues last for longer periods they are then refered to as postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis, an extreme mood disorder, rarely occurs after childbirth. 

It is a common medical condition in which  prompt treatment is required to help relieve symptoms.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression vary depending on the severity. Signs and symptoms of postpartum baby blues includes: 

  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • crying
  • reduced concentration
  • appetite problems
  • trouble sleeping.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are more intense compared to postpartum baby blues. Symptoms usually begin within the first few weeks after giving birth, although they may take up to six months to develop in other cases. 

Symptoms include: severe mood swings, excessive crying, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawn attitude, insomnia, overwhelming fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, reduced ability to think clearly ,severe anxiety and panic attacks and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.                                                  

Postpartum psychosis usually develops within the first week of delivery. Signs and symptoms include: condusion, disorientation, obsessive thoughts about the baby, hallucinations and delusions, paranoia and attempts  to harm oneself or the baby.

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3 Causes

Physical and emotional changes have been suggested as potential causes for postpartum depression. 

Physical changes like dramtic drop in estrogen and progesterone and thyroid hormones can lead to postpartum depression. 

Sleep deprivation and anxiety in new mothers may also contribute to the development of postpartum depression.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Mental health providers use The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose postpartum depression. 

Patients may be required to complete a screening questionaire. Blood tests to check for the levels of certain hormones like estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormone may be carried out.

5 Treatment

Treatment of postpartum depression depends on the severity of the depression. Baby blues tend to disaapear on their own within a few days to one to two weeks. 

Keeping positive and having family and friends around can speed up the recovery period. Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs can also help to relieve symptoms of baby blues.                                       

Postpartum treatment on the other hand requires treatment. Treatments range from psychotherapy to administration of antidepressants. 

Precaution should be taken when administering antidepressants since they can enter the breast milk and this may cause side effects in a baby who is being breastfed. If postpartum depression is treated adequately, it can disappear within six months. 

Treatment should  be continued even when patients begin to feel better to prevent chronic depression from developing.                                                                                                                                                             

Postpartum psychosis requires immediate treatment in the hospital. A combination of medications including antidepressants, antipsychotic and mood stabilizers can be used to reduce signs and symptoms. 

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be recommended for patients who fail to respond to medications. ECT is a treatment in which a small electric current is used to produce brain waves similar to those that occur during a seizure. 

The chemical changes in the brain cam reduce symptoms of psychosis and depression.

6 Prevention

The best way to prevent postpartum depression is to speak with your doctor to learn more about the condition while you are pregnant, and to heavily monitor your care after childbirth.

Women with a history of postpartum depression should tell their doctors when they are planning or are pregnant. 

This is necessary as it helps doctors to monitor the women for signs of depression throught out the pregnancy and after childbirth. The earleir it is deetected, the earlier treatment can be given.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Speaking to a therapist or joining a support group can help women with postpartum depression to cope with postpartum depression.

The following tips can speed up the recovery of a woman suffering from postpartum depression:                                                                                                                                     

  • Getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and avoiding alcohol                                                                                                                                                                                                        
  • Avoiding stressful activities                                                                                                                         
  • Avoiding isolation                                                                                                                                                 
  • Asking for help to take of the baby

8 Risks and Complications

Risk factors for postpartum depression include:                                                                                                                 

  • History of depression                                                                  
  • Being bipolar                                                                                                                       
  • Having a family history of depression or postpartum depression                                                                                              
  • Experiencing stressful events during the past year                                                                                                         
  • Having a baby with health problems or special needs                                                                                          
  • Trouble breastfeeding                                                                                              
  • Having problems in a relationship with a spouse                                                                                            
  • Having financial problems                                                     
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy                                                                  

If postpartum depression is not treated , it can lead to poor mother-child bonding and can lead to family problems.  

Women with postpartum depression may develop a chronic depressive disorder while children may have emotional and behavioral problems like sleeping and eating difficulties, excessive crying and attentiondeficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Some children may even have de;ays in language development. Fathers are at a risk of developing depression if the mother is depressed. 

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