What is Postpartum Depression?
When you look up pregnancy and motherhood on Google images, one of the first images that you see is one of a radiant woman holding her baby and gazing at their little one with happiness. This may not be the ideal case. For many new mothers, adjusting to a new life with your little one in it can be exhausting and overwhelming. It is normal for new mothers to feel these emotions. Emotions of being tired, feeling uneasy, feeling unattractive (due to the sudden change in body) etc.
Up to 80% of mothers feel these emotions in the first week or two after childbirth. It's totally natural and typically goes away after a few weeks. This is referred to as “baby blues”. Despite the fact that certain symptoms are similar, postpartum depression is not the same as baby blues.
Postpartum depression is significantly more intense and lasts for longer. It happens after around 15% of births, in both first-time mothers and those who have already given birth as well. It has the potential to trigger severe mood swings, depression, and hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings will make it difficult to care for your baby or yourself.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Although many symptoms of postpartum depression and baby blues are similar, including mood swings, crying fits, sadness, insomnia, and irritability- the major difference is that postpartum depression symptoms are more severe, such as suicidal thoughts or an inability to care for your child, and last longer.
- You may find yourself withdrawing from your partner or struggling to bond with your child
- You can find that your anxiety is out of control, keeping you from sleeping or eating properly
- You may become overwhelmed by feelings of remorse or worthlessness, or you may begin to have preoccupations with death or even wish you were not alive
- You have trouble recalling information
- You can't focus or make clear decisions
- You've lost interest in activities you used to love
- You feel distant from your baby and wonder why you aren't filled with joy as you expected
These are all warning signs of postpartum depression. The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale is a postpartum depression screening tool. A score of more than 13 indicates the need for a more rigorous evaluation because you might be suffering from postpartum depression.
What causes Postpartum Depression?
There is no single explanation for why some new mothers experience postpartum depression while others do not, but a variety of interconnected causes and risk factors are thought to contribute to the issue.
- Hormonal shifts: Women's estrogen and progesterone hormone levels plummet during childbirth. Thyroid levels can also fall, resulting in fatigue and a decline in the new mom’s mental health. Postpartum depression may be triggered by these rapid hormonal changes, as well as changes in blood pressure, immune system functioning, and metabolism that new mothers undergo.
- Physical changes: Giving birth causes a slew of physical and emotional changes. You may be insecure about your physical and sexual attractiveness due to physical discomfort from childbirth or the challenge of losing baby weight.
- Anxiety: The strain of caring for a child can also be taxing. Sleep deprivation is common among new mothers. You can still feel exhausted and concerned about your ability to adequately care for your infant. These changes can be especially difficult if you are a first-time mother who must adapt to a completely new identity.
How to Treat Postpartum Depression?
Firstly, know that speaking about your feelings is a commendable step. To begin, speak with your OB-GYN about your physical symptoms. Speaking out and self-care for new moms may be an effective way to deal with it but speaking to your OB-GYN is essential to get better.
You might feel more at ease reaching out to those who have gone through similar experiences. They understand how you feel and can provide non-judgmental support. Consider joining a new mother's support group. They may also be depressed, anxious, or suffering from postpartum depression.
- Make a strong bond with your infant: Attachment, or the emotional bonding mechanism between mother and infant, is the most important task of infancy. The success of this wordless relationship allows a child to feel comfortable enough to grow completely, and it influences how they can connect, communicate, and establish relationships throughout life.
A secure bond is established when you, as the mother, respond warmly and consistently to your baby's physical and emotional needs. When your baby cries, you quickly calm them down. If your baby laughs or smiles, you answer in kind. You understand and respond to each other's emotional cues.
- Depend on others for assistance and encouragement: Humans are social creatures. Positive social interaction relieves stress faster and more effectively than any other process. From a historical and evolutionary perspective, new mothers obtained assistance from those around them while caring for themselves and their children after childbirth. In today's world, new mothers are often alone, tired, and lonely for supportive adult interaction.
- Individual therapy or marital counseling: Therapy for new moms with a good therapist will assist them in successfully navigating the challenges of motherhood. Marriage therapy may be very helpful if you are having marital problems or feel unsupported at home.
- Antidepressants: These are medications used to treat depression. In cases of postpartum depression where the ability to care for yourself or your baby is impaired, antidepressants can be an option. Medication, on the other hand, should be closely supervised by a physician and has been found to be more effective when combined with psychotherapy.
- Hormone replacement therapy: Postpartum depression can also be helped by estrogen replacement therapy. Estrogen is often combined with an antidepressant. Hormone therapy carries risks, so consult with your doctor on what is right and safest for you.
Postpartum depression may make the already stressful time immediately following childbirth much more difficult. The sooner you get help handling your depression, the sooner you will enjoy your baby and motherhood.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed/shared in the blog above are personal thoughts of the writer. Berrytree recommends you consult with your doctor/pediatrician/family before instinctively following any suggested steps.