Postpartum Depression

It’s normal for new moms to feel overwhelmed and even sad due to all of the changes in her routine and in her body, coupled with not getting enough sleep. Those feelings are often considered the “baby blues,” which are different from postpartum depression. We’ll go over baby blues and postpartum depression so you’ll be prepared to recognize the signs and symptoms if it happens to you.

What are the "baby blues?"

It is not uncommon for women to experience the "baby blues" during the first days or weeks after delivery. These sad or blue feelings most commonly begin suddenly on the third or fourth day after delivery. Women tend to experience the symptoms of baby blues differently. However, there are some common symptoms, including:

  • feelings of disappointment
  • feeling overly sensitive about things
  • crying for no known reason
  • irritability
  • impatience
  • anxiety
  • restlessness

What is postpartum depression?

Much more serious and lasting than the "baby blues," some women experience what is clinically referred to as postpartum depression. The following are the most common symptoms of postpartum depression. However, each woman experiences these symptoms differently.

Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:

  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • hopelessness
  • fatigue or exhaustion
  • inability to concentrate
  • confusion
  • fear of harming herself or her baby
  • mood swings characterized by exaggerated highs and/or lows
  • feelings of guilt
  • low self-esteem
  • uncontrolled crying with no known cause
  • over concern/over attentiveness for her newborn and/or a lack of interest in her newborn
  • appetite changes
  • difficulty sleeping or sleep disturbances
  • feelings of resentment
  • memory loss
  • feelings of isolation

What causes postpartum depression?

While the exact cause for postpartum depression is unknown, it is likely that a number of different factors are involved, such as:

  • hormonal changes during and after delivery
  • stress
  • sleep deprivation
  • personal or family history of mental illness, particularly postpartum depression
  • marital problems
  • changing roles (as a spouse or new parent)

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

Typical diagnostic procedures for postpartum depression include a complete medical history, a physical exam, and a psychiatric evaluation

Treatment for postpartum depression

It is important to note that most women who experience the "baby blues," postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, and/or postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder have never experienced these types of symptoms before, especially with such intensity. And no matter what the cause or whether these symptoms are new or not, it is important for women to seek proper treatment early. This is not only to ensure that the newborn remains safe and properly cared for, but also to make sure the mother can be treated for these symptoms and experience all the joys of motherhood.

If you have postpartum depression or other serious postpartum conditions that relate to mental health, your physician will decide how to treat you based on:

  • your age, overall health and medical history
  • the severity and duration of your symptoms
  • whether or not you are breastfeeding
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • medication, such as antidepressants
  • referral to a psychologist for counseling
  • peer support, such as support groups and classes
  • stress management and relaxation training
  • exercise
  • assertiveness training to help you set limits with family members and ask for help when needed so you don’t become overwhelmed and overworked
  • regular follow-up visits with your physician

If you ever feel overwhelmed or depressed or have any signs or symptoms of postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. It’s never too soon to seek help and treatment. Don’t wait until you’re so overwhelmed that it’s too difficult for you to even pick up the phone to make an appointment. You and your health are so important to your family and your new baby, so don’t ever feel like asking for help is a sign of weakness or that you should be able to do it all on your own. Postpartum depression isn’t about you being weak. It’s a real medical condition that can be treated successfully, and the sooner you begin treatment, the better.

It’s also important for spouses or family to understand and watch for signs of postpartum depression as the new mom may not always realize that she’s struggling.

If you ever feel like harming yourself, your baby or someone else, call 911 or have someone bring you to the emergency room.

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