What is Postpartum Depression? Symptoms & Treatments
Depression falls under the general medical term ‘Perinatal Mental Health’.
Perinatal Mental Health covers mental illnesses such as:
- Postpartum Anxiety
- Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Psychosis
It’s normal for new mums to suffer from the baby blues. It can make you feel a bit anxious, tearful, mood swings and trouble sleeping at night.
This ‘Baby Blues’ should only last for two weeks, if you’ve had these symptoms longer it may be postpartum depression.
- What Is Postpartum Depression?
- What Are The Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression?
- What Are The Treatments For Postpartum Depression?
- Where To Get Help For Postpartum Depression?
This refers to the mental health of a woman in the postpartum period after the baby is born.
Postpartum Depression is depression suffered by either the Mother or Father following childbirth.
The mother usually has worrying thoughts about the health of their child and feels they are not ‘good enough‘ to be a mum.
Also you can feel that your baby would be better off without you. You can be overwhelmed with concern for your baby.
Thankfully perinatal mental illnesses are very treatable and only temporary. You can and will recover with proper professional help.
I had a wonderful GP who gave me a great piece of advice. When describing to me what is postpartum depression she said :
“Postpartum Depression is the same as ‘normal’ depression, the fact that it says ‘Postpartum’ is just to show the time in your life you suffer from it – after your baby. It’s no reflection on your ability as a mother”
PPD affects every 10-15 mothers out of 100. PPD typically starts within the first 12 months after childbirth.
Postpartum Anxiety and Depression are common. 15-20% of new mothers will develop postnatal depression and or anxiety.
Postpartum Psychosis is thankfully rare, only 1-2 out of every 1000 births with result in this diagnosis – 1%.
The numbers may be small but it is extremely serious.
Usually it happens within a few days of giving birth. It is vital that the mother receives professional health as soon as possible. It can be treated very effectively but needs quick treatment.
What Are The Causes Of Postpartum Depression?
There isn’t one thing that causes postpartum depression. It is a combination of different things and events.
In women it typically arises from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue. After birth your hormone levels change quickly – this can leave your feeling tired and depressed.
Fatigue is another big cause – when your exhausted from the lack of sleep with a newborn everything is overwhelming and difficult to handle. You may worry if you are good enough to take care of the baby and feel like you have lost ‘you’ and who ‘you’ were. It can be difficult adjusting to a new role.
Risk Factors That Increase Chance Of Developing Postpartum Depression.
As previously mentioned that are many issues and factors that can lead you to have postpartum depression.
However, it is true that some woman may already be at risk of developing postpartum depression due to high risk factors already in their life.
These risk factors include :
- an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- money problems
- no family or friends close by to be a support network
- baby is born with health problems or complications
- you’ve have twins (double the stress and worry)
- you have bipolar disorder
- you have having trouble with the father of the baby
- you have a history of depression
- your family has a history of depression or other mental illnesses
- you’ve suffered from postpartum depression before
- you’ve had stressful events happen recently such as losing your job
- you’ve suffered stress recently from the death of a loved one
If you’ve had postpartum depression before it’s important to tell your doctor when you are trying to conceive again or when you become pregnant again. They will be be to give you help and guidance to help you not suffer so much this time around.
It has been known for doctors to prescribe antidepressants straight after birth to reduce symptoms.
Many of the symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as the baby blues.
However, they last longer and are worse in severity.
They can affect your ability to look yourself and the baby.
Postpartum depression usually starts within the first few weeks after birth but there have been cases of women who haven’t show any symptoms up to a year after the birth.
The main symptoms that are common to postpartum depression are:
- feelings of unhappiness and low mood
- finding it difficult to bond with your baby
- poor appetite
- loss of libido
- low self-esteem
- depressed mood
- feelings of guilt
- loss of interest in normal activities
- loss of enjoyment in normal activities
- not interacting with other people
- severe mood swings
- panic attacks
- aches and pains
- loss of concentration
- feelings of hopelessness
- feeling unable to cope
- frightening thoughts about self harm and or suicide
- frightening thoughts about harming the baby
- excessive crying
- finding it difficult to think clearly
How Postpartum Depression Is Diagnosed
Postpartum Depression is diagnosed by a discussion with you about how you are feeling and also something called the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Quiz.
It is important to answer all of your doctors questions honestly as well as the ones in the quiz. There is no right or wrong answers, the test is designed to get you the help you need.
You can take a test here to see if you may be suffering postpartum depression – it can be useful to take the results of the test with you to the doctors.
Also download the checklist below to see if you have the symptoms of postpartum depression. Print this off, fill it in as show your health visitor or GP.
- Talking Therapy
- Online Help
Talking through your thoughts and feeling with a councillor can help you understand and recover from what you are experiencing. It helps you to identify what is affecting your postpartum depression and how to improve these situations.
Your GP may also recommend Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT helps you identify the negative thoughts and helps you find a way to stop the negative thinking and helps you think in a more positive way. CBT can be given one-to one or in a group.
Your GP may recommend a course of antidepressants if you are suffering from moderate to severe postpartum depression. For postpartum depression most have a course for six to 9 months.
You should take them for a long as your GP advises as if you stop too soon it may return. Most people struggle with a few symptoms for the first 2 weeks – such as nausea.
After your body has got used to them they will start to work and you’ll feel much better. They take two to four weeks to kick so give them a chance.
Usually the first couple of weeks will suck but I promise you it’s gets so much better – just hang on in there. There have been major studies that show that antidepressants do work with treating depression so please do consider them as an option.
Eating a healthy diet and exercise can really help recovery from postpartum depression.
It’s also good to take a break from your childcare duties and have some you time.
Most importantly you should practise self care for mums is a must.
Therefore, you need to make time for yourself to rest and get a good nights sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping make an appointment with your GP.
During the day get out and about and get some fresh air and a brisk walk is also beneficial.
Talk with family and friends about your feelings and ways they can help and support you. Starting a journal or self care book can also be really useful – studies have shown that writing down your feelings are a great form of self help.
You can also get support and encouragement from other mums online who have been in a similar position to you – group support is very effective.
The online world has evolved rapidly and I’m pleased to say you can now receive great help and support for postpartum depression online.
These are some of the ways you can access help online.
- Postpartum Depression Support Blogs
- Online Counselling
- Peer To Peer Group Support
The benefits of choosing online counselling sessions for postpartum depression are that you can do them at at time that suits you and without leaving the house.
This can be especially useful for those of us who work shifts, have trouble getting out of the house, or have no-one to help watch over the kids.
Online peer to peer support is amazing for helping you through rough patches and giving you the motivation you need.
Your first points of contact should be your GP and Health Visitor.
They have seen mums in the same position as you and have helped them through it. They will start you off on your recovery.
Your GP may recommend some medication, and will also be able to offer alternative methods of recovery.
Remember having postpartum depression does not mean you are bad mother or that you are unable to cope – you may feel this way but it doesn’t make it true.
You can also get support online from other mums who have had postpartum depression and recovered. This can be really beneficial as they know how you are feeling as they have been there and also you can see there is hope and things to get easier and that it is possible to recover.
Check out this twitter chat that happens every week on Wednesday at 8pm(GMT). Just go to Twitter and type in#PNDHour to join in.
It helped me so much especially at the start. I was amazed by how many other mums had postpartum depression and it was good to know I wasn’t alone.
You can read about how I personally felt here in My Postpartum Depression Recovery Story.
Are There Any Charities For Postpartum Depression?
If you want to read more about what is postpartum depression, symptoms and treatments, or if you’d like some help then these charities can offer you advice and support on Postpartum Illness. They also give you more information on what is postpartum depression and other maternal mental illnesses :
If you feel any of the above you may be suffering from postpartum depression – it is important to seek help from your GP / Health Visitor.