Postpartum Depression: Affecting 17.22% of World Population

Postpartum depression also called peripartum depression can be better understood with an example. One such example is as follows.


Postpartum depression

Lynda is 30 years old, resides in Tuscon, Arizona, and works for a hospitality chain. She has just delivered a child. Recently, she has started getting trouble sleeping, loss of appetite and severe fatigue. Besides, she is feeling angry, withdrawn and nurture the guilt of not being a good mother. She consulted a doctor who diagnosed this condition as postpartum depression (PPD). As per the study by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 8 women in the United States with a recent live birth have symptoms of postpartum depression. The recent pandemic of Covid-19 has further aggravated the condition. The situation affects a large population worldwide. Here we try to understand it.

Postpartum Depression – Meaning and Definition

Postpartum depression now known as peripartum depression is a kind of depression that women suffer after giving birth to a child. The condition is also referred to as baby blues. The sufferer goes through difficulty in sleeping, crying and mood swings. The sufferers may come across the feeling that she is not a good mom. Generally, PPD starts 2-3 days after delivery and may continue for up to 2 weeks.

In certain cases, a new mom may face extreme mood swings, this condition is called postpartum psychosis.

As per Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, postpartum depression is a medical condition where women have a feeling of sadness or anxiety after giving birth to a child. They have negative thoughts and they may find it hard to live a normal life.

Sometimes the term postpartum depression is interchangeably used as postnatal depression.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Like other mental disorders, postpartum depression also has its symptoms. Here we list its symptoms.

  • The sufferer may experience mood swings.
  • She may cry excessively without a reason.
  • She may not be able to bond well with her baby.
  • She will fill withdrawn from her family and social circle.
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping are also major symptoms.
  • There could be a feeling of guilt that she is not a good mother.
  • She may feel severe fatigue or lack of energy.
  • She may lose interest in things that she previously loved doing.
  • She may feel hopeless.
  • She may have a feeling of anger or irritation over small issues.
  • The sufferer may feel that she is not worthy.
  • She will feel gloomy, lack concentration and not able to make decisions.
  • She may have thoughts of hurting others.
  • The sufferer may experience reduced libido.
  • She may have thoughts like harming herself and suicidal tendencies.

Causes of Postpartum Depression

It Is hard to determine the exact causes of postpartum depression but physical and emotional changes can be attributed as reasons.

Hormonal Imbalance

Sometimes hormonal imbalance may be the reason behind postpartum depression. There is a sharp decline in estrogen and progesterone. Hormonal secretion from the thyroid gland also gets reduced which leads to a feeling of fatigue and depression.

Sleep Issues

Women who have sleep deprivation or difficulty sleeping may not be able to concentrate on things. Such women after pregnancy may develop postpartum depression.

Anxiety Issues

Some women are highly anxious about caring for a baby and they think that their carelessness may prove costly to their baby. Such a condition may further aggravate postpartum depression.

Low Self Esteem

Women with low self-esteem may develop postpartum depression. Some of them may have guilt for not looking beautiful, and attractive and may be feeling that they have not handled their life well. This condition may develop into postpartum depression.

Who are at the risk of postpartum depression?

Most women who have given birth to a child recently are at risk of developing postpartum depression. It is not necessary that only first-time mothers are prone to it. However, some women are more at risk than others. Here are the risk factors.

  • Women with a history of depression – pre- or post-delivery – are at high risk.
  • The risk of PPD is also high for women with bipolar disorder.
  • Those who have previously suffered from it.
  • Your family has a history of depression.
  • You have faced bad incidents in the years preceding pregnancy.
  • Women who have delivered twins, triplets, or multiple babies are also at high risk.
  • Bad financial conditions can also aggravate the risk.
  • Women not enjoying a healthy relationship with spouses can also develop it.
  • Women with problems with breastfeeding are also likely to develop PPD.
  • Women who have not given birth to a healthy child are also at risk.

When should you visit a doctor?

Postpartum depression could lead to major complications if not treated well and that too within time. Here are the conditions when you should visit a doctor.

  • When you are thinking of harming yourself or your newborn, then you should see a doctor.
  • If thoughts of suicide or death are regularly coming to your mind.
  • Continued depression for around two weeks.
  • You are feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty.
  • You are feeling withdrawn.
  • You are not able to concentrate or make decisions.

Complications Due to Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression may bring with it a set of complications if not treated well. Here we list the major complications.

Complication Among Mothers

As we all know, women are on the receiving end when it comes to complications of postpartum depression. If they are treated well, the condition may develop into chronic depressive disorder. Even after treatment, some patients suffer from depression.

Complications Among Children              

Children of mothers suffering from postpartum depression may face sleeping, eating and learning problems. They cry more than normal.

Complication Among Fathers

What happens in the family affects other family members as well. So, when a mother suffers from postpartum depression, there are chances that their husband may suffer from it.

Screening or Diagnosis of Postpartum Depression

You have heard about postpartum depression but how you can be sure that you are suffering from it?

  • If the symptoms of depression last for more than two weeks within the year of childbirth, you should consult a doctor.
  • If the mother is not able to properly care for herself or her newborn, she should be taken to a doctor.
  • While screening, your doctor will ask several questions. He also prescribes tests to ascertain if there is any other reason for depression.
  • The doctor will give you a questionnaire to fill out so that he can have an idea of your condition.

Types of Postpartum Mood Disorders

Postpartum mood disorders can broadly be divided into three types. These types are as follows.

Baby Blues

Baby blues is a condition in which a women suddenly feels mood swings after giving birth to a child. She may feel very happy at one time and very sad at another. Around 70% of women who have given birth to a child suffer from this condition. The situation lasts for 1-2 weeks after childbirth. In most cases, no medical intervention is required.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a medical condition that occurs in women after giving birth to a child. This medical condition is serious and may lead to other complications if not treated well. A doctor advises you on psychotherapy or medication or both as part of the treatment.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a medical condition that is serious in nature. It begins within three months of giving birth to a child. In such a condition, the suffering woman may experience hallucination, delusion and difficulty in sleeping. Agitation, anger and restlessness are other symptoms.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

After diagnosis and warning signs it is time to look for treatment. Here we try to understand various treatment options available for depression.

Medication

When you visit a doctor, he will prescribe antidepressants. Through this, he tries to maintain chemical balance in your brain that may be responsible for mood swings.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are major medicines prescribed to treat postpartum depression. You shouldn’t expect immediate benefits as these medicines take three to four weeks to show results.

As hormonal changes are cited as a reason for PPD, hormone therapy is recommended in some cases.

But here is a word of caution. Hormone therapy has its side effects. So, you should discuss it with your therapist.

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

In cases where medication is not effective, you may be given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In this procedure, current is passed through the patient’s brain to create a seizure. The treatment has been found effective in different forms of depression including postpartum depression. 

Read more about Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy has also been found effective in treating postpartum depression. Cognitive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapy is being used for treating PPD.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy has been found effective in controlling the symptoms of postpartum depression. The therapy works well in a combination of medication. Several studies have shown that PPD is better managed when patients are taking medication and CBT both.

Cognitive behavior therapy is aimed at changing your mind or behavior patterns. 

Also Read 

10 Self-Help Books on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Interpersonal Therapy

In this therapy, the therapists talk to you about your problems. He tries to know what is making you worried. Based on this talk he may suggest ways to come out of this situation.

Natural Remedies

Some natural remedies have also been found effective in treating postpartum disorders. Regular exercise and yoga have shown good results.

Self-help for Postpartum Depression

Apart from medication, psychotherapy and natural remedies, you can also get benefitted by taking good care of yourself. Here are some self-help tips for you.

Nurture Healthy Habits

Nurturing healthy habits always pays and it also plays well in postpartum depression. Eating healthy, saying no to alcohol and regular exercise could be few of these habits.

Get Enough Sleep

Reduced sleep can make your postpartum depression worse. You should take enough sleep as per your requirements. Sleep on a comfortable bed, with no noise nearby and lights off.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Much

People who try to do everything and that too with perfection are often stressed. Their postpartum depression worsens.So, it is wise to have realistic ambitions.    

Have Some Me Time

You should have some me time so that you can look back and think what is plaguing you. Due to your busy schedule, you may not be able to reflect. This time can also be used to do fulfilling your hobbies.

Don’t Be an Island

Isolation may worsen your postpartum depression. So, you should be in the company of family, friends, and others who care for you.

Read books

Several books have been written on postpartum depression. These books are replete with coping strategies and dos and don’ts. You should order one book and read it in your spare time.

Also Read

Depression – Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and More (

Common Myths About Postpartum Depression

Lack of proper understanding and misconception have given space for myths around PPD. Here we list the common myths about postpartum depression.

Myth - It is less severe than depression.

Fact - Some people have the misconception that postpartum depression is less severe than other forms of depression. But there is no truth in it as PPD is as severe as other forms of depression.

Myth - It happens only due to hormones.

Fact - There is a myth that hormonal changes are the sole reason behind it. But in reality, it caused due to a combination of factors including hormonal imbalance.

Myth - It happens with the first baby only.

Fact - It is also a myth. You can get postpartum depression after the birth of any number of babies. So don’t think that if you have not got postpartum depression after the birth of the first baby then you can’t get it later.

Myth - Postpartum depression and baby blue are the same.

Fact - Many people think that postpartum depression is a condition like baby blue that will pass very soon. The reality is that it lasts for a long and can have serious implications if not treated well.

Myth - Postpartum depression affects women only.

Fact - People think that PPD affects women only. But it affects men also. Though the percentage is less. As per a recent study 1 in 10 men get depressed after becoming a father.

Myth - Postpartum depression begins just after the birth of the child.

Fact - There is a common belief that postpartum depression begins just after birth. It is true for most cases. However, there are exceptions to the rule. It has been observed that postpartum depression in some cases starts during pregnancy while in other instances it starts after a year of childbirth.

Myth - Postpartum depression can be prevented.

Fact - There is a general misconception that postpartum depression can be prevented. You can do little about it. But you can be careful if you have suffered from it in past. You should consult a doctor who will keep examining you for its signs.

Myth - Women with PPD may harm their babies.

Fact - People believe that women suffering from postpartum depression harm their babies. But it is far from the truth. Women suffering from PPD have more chances to harm themselves than their babies.

You shouldn’t confuse postpartum depression with postpartum psychosis. Harming babies is a symptom of postpartum psychosis which is a rare disease.

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