Depression is most certainly a thing nobody should have to deal with but unfortunately, bad things happen and it’s just one of the resultant effects.
According to statistics, women are usually nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Hormonal changes do not only kick off in women faster than men but also happen more constantly, owing to the various hormonal changes during puberty and every other time after.
Menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and even the transition to menopause are all triggers to depression in a woman’s life of a woman.
The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear, anxiety, and quite sadly, depression, which is medically called postpartum.
Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it’s simply a flood of twisted emotions after giving birth. A woman just out of the theater may begin to experience what is called baby blues- feelings of sadness after a few days of having a baby. However, baby blues is only a mild start to postpartum depression.
About 4 in 5 new mothers (80 percent) experienced baby blues usually within the first 2 to 3 days but sometimes last up to 2 weeks. The feelings commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
Postpartum depression is more intense and lasts longer than baby blues and may eventually interfere with the mother’s ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks.
About 1 out of every 10 women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression after delivery. About 1 in 1,000 women develop a more serious condition called postpartum psychosis.
It is needful to say at this point that the female gender is really a strong species that hasn’t been appreciated and reminded enough of its true potential. It takes strength to have a baby, talk more about caring for a life. No woman should be pushed down for feeling overwhelmed.
It is not a woman’s fault to feel this way neither is it a character default nor does it translate to mean she is a bad mother. Love, understanding, and adequate professional medical care are all that’s needed to overcome.
Types Of Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Postpartum blues, widely known as baby blues, happens to be the most common form of postpartum mood disorders. It affects approximately 50% – 85% of women. Postpartum blues is the mildest form of postpartum depression. It occurs within the first few weeks of delivery, and generally only lasts for a couple of hours or days. It goes away completely within about two weeks.
Postpartum blues is not exactly postpartum depression in the sense that postpartum blues symptoms do not interfere with a woman’s ability to function in everyday life.
The symptoms pass quickly and do not leave a lasting impact on the mother or family. Because postpartum blues symptoms are so common, it is considered normal and not serious for postpartum women.
This is another common mood disorder developed after birth. It often goes undiagnosed because many people believe that new mothers are naturally anxious. Therefore, some symptoms of postpartum anxiety may seem “normal”. Postpartum anxiety is different from other forms of PPD because its symptoms include far more anxious behaviors than primarily depressed behavior.
Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Postpartum (OCD) is another type of postpartum depression. It is an anxiety mood disorder and affects roughly 3% – 5% of postpartum women.
Symptoms of postpartum OCD include intrusive and persistent thoughts. These thoughts usually involve harming—or even killing the baby. These thoughts are rarely acted upon because mothers with postpartum OCD are aware of and horrified by the thoughts.
Other behavioral characteristics of postpartum OCD include compulsive habits, such as repetitive cleaning and changing of the baby. Because mothers are embarrassed and ashamed by these thoughts and behaviors, postpartum OCD often goes unreported and, therefore, undiagnosed and untreated.
Postpartum Panic Disorder
Postpartum panic disorder is a postpartum mood disorder that involves severe levels of anxiety. It occurs in up to 10% of postpartum women. Women with postpartum panic disorder suffer from extreme anxiousness and repeated panic attacks.
Symptoms of postpartum panic attacks include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightening of the chest
- Heart palpitations
- Consistent and excessive worry/fear
These fears generally involve dying, losing control, or going crazy.
Women with a history of severe anxiety and panic attacks are at a greater risk of developing postpartum panic disorder. Thyroid dysfunction can also create a greater risk for postpartum panic disorder.
Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a unique form of postpartum depression. It affects over 9% of postpartum women. Like general PTSD, symptoms of postpartum PTSD are the result of some real or perceived threat to the mother. This threat or trauma usually occurs during childbirth or shortly after.
Postpartum PTSD traumas may include:
- Birth complications
- The baby being sent to the NICU
- Unplanned C-sections
- Other injuries the woman suffered during delivery
Women who have suffered from other past traumas, including sexual assault or violence, may be at a greater risk of developing postpartum PTSD.
Postpartum PTSD symptoms include:
- Reliving the trauma in flashbacks and memories
- Avoiding trauma triggers
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling detached or numb to reality
Many women with postpartum PTSD also feel a strong sense of guilt, shame, and self-blame regarding their feelings about their trauma.
Postpartum psychosis is the most serious form of any postpartum mood disorder, though it is extremely rare. Approximately 1 to 2 mothers out of every 1,000 childbirths will develop postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis generally begins within the first few weeks after delivering the child.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis included hallucinations, delusional thoughts, extreme agitation, hyperactivity, confusion, and poor judgment.
The behaviors of a woman with postpartum psychosis are comparable to the manic behaviors of someone with bipolar disorder. In fact, women with past histories of bipolar disorder and other psychotic illnesses are at a greater risk of developing postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis causes mothers to be unaware of their actions and behaviors. Therefore, this disorder presents a serious risk of suicide or infanticide. This risk equates to about 10%, so immediate treatment and even hospitalization are vital.
Causes Of Postpartum Disorder
- A history of depression prior to becoming pregnant, or during pregnancy
- Age at time of pregnancy (the younger you are, the higher the chances)
- Ambivalence about the pregnancy
- Family history of mood disorders
- Going through an extremely stressful event, like a job loss or health crisis
- Having a child with special needs or health problems
- Having twins or triplets
- Having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
- Limited social support
- Living alone
- . Marital conflict
- Feeling the need to be a perfect parent but feeling unable to achieve this
- Not having any free time
- Recurrent breastfeeding difficulty
- Substance use disorder
- Birthing a baby with special needs
- Had an unwanted pregnancy
- Lack of support from close relations
Solution To Postpartum Depression
There are several things you, as an individual, can do to combat postpartum depression and it’s not something you just have to suffer through. If you believe you are struggling, one of the first steps is to speak with your doctor about your concerns. The doctors will ask you more detailed questions to see if a diagnosis of postpartum depression is right for you.
Some women can combat their postpartum depression with simple lifestyle adjustments, other women need more comprehensive medical intervention. Regardless, it’s important to remember that postpartum depression is, at its core, a chemical issue, and if you are not able to improve your symptoms without medical support, it is NOT a personal failure.
However, there are several steps or acts to take in trying to get a solution to Postpartum Depression, as it is a complex relationship of multiple factors. One can:
It is advised that women be very open about their struggle with postpartum depression with other mothers in your social circle. While you might have to battle the illness, you do not have to battle shame. Think about it like, if as many as one in five women suffers from postpartum depression, the likelihood that you know women who have gone through it is incredibly high.
Make it a priority to spend time with friends and family. While it might not be possible to do all of the things you did pre-baby, gathering with others in a social setting is healthy. If you don’t have a lot of friends who are mothers, contact your birthing hospital or your obstetrician and ask them about local parent/baby groups in the area. They are a great way to connect socially (and commiserate about the challenges of parenting a baby) with other moms.
Seeking Professional Help:
Sometimes lifestyle adjustments don’t help, or adequate social support is hard to come by. Counseling or talk therapy has been proven to be incredibly helpful in treating postpartum depression. A counselor or therapist can not only help you work through the major lifestyle transition of adding a newborn to your family, but they can also walk alongside you and help you to find ways to implement some of the lifestyle changes listed above – because it can seem overwhelming to do it on your own.
Exercise When You Can
It has been established that exercise may have an antidepressant effect for women with PPD. In particular, walking with a baby in a stroller might be an easy way to get in some steps and breathe fresh air. In a study published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, walking was found to be a statistically significant way to ease depression. Try working out for 10 minutes a few times during the day. Fitness Blender is a good resource for short, simple workouts that you can do without any equipment.