Childbirth triggers numerous emotions ranging from positive to negative. A new mother experiences joy and excitement in welcoming the new member of the family, but it can also cause anxiety and fear. But on top of all the emotions, women can also experience depression, which is something unexpected for considerably joyous life events like childbirth. This depression is known as postpartum depression.
New mothers often experience the so-called “baby blues” after giving birth. This is characterized by crying spells and mood swings that usually fade faster. However, several mothers experience postpartum depression, which is characterized by long-lasting and fairly severe depressive symptoms. In rare cases, several mothers show signs of postpartum psychosis, which is the depression’s extreme form. There are many treatments and remedies to fight postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Unlike the usual perspective on the problem, postpartum depression is not considered as a sign of weakness or flaw in the mothers’ personalities. It is simply one of the many childbirth complications. Despite the definition, mothers experience depressive symptoms are advised to receive immediate treatment to manage its symptoms and completely enjoy the baby’s arrival.
1. Baby Blues Symptoms
Lasting for the first days up to two weeks after childbirth, baby blues symptoms include anxiety, irritability, mood swings, crying spells, impaired focus and concentration, as well as sleeping problems.
2. Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Symptoms are similar with baby blues symptoms although more severe and occurs in longer duration of time. Due to the symptoms’ intensity, new mothers find themselves having troubles caring for the baby while balancing other usual tasks. Common symptoms include insomnia, appetite loss, lack of sexual drive, fatigue, irritability, feeling withdrawn from other people, severe mood swings, intrusive thoughts of harming the infant, and feeling guilt and unhappiness in life.
Postpartum depression’s complications extend from the mothers to their children when left unmanaged. Depression meddles with the bond between mothers and their infants, while causing other issues within the family. Children of mothers suffering from untreated postpartum depression have higher risk of showing behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, showing tantrums and having a temper, sleeping difficulties, and others. Their learning process is also affected, as they tend to show language development delays.
Major depression is prevalent among women who experienced postpartum depression due to their increased risk despite treatment. When left unmanaged, postpartum depression can develop into chronic depressive disorder.
4. When to See a Doctor
Early treatment is important to prevent the aftermath of postpartum depression. New mothers are advised to check with their physicians once several symptoms show like continuous depressive symptoms lasting for two weeks with increasing intensity. Another sign is if the depression makes it difficult to take care for the infant. Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby is also a criterion that it is time to consult a professional. Experts emphasize to visit a professional to prevent postpartum psychosis instead of waiting for the depressive thoughts to lessen in intensity.
Postpartum Depression Causes
Several factors are considered as postpartum depression causes like emotional, physical and lifestyle factors.
1. Physical Factors
Hormonal changes occur after childbirth. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly and linked as a postpartum depression cause. Aside from female hormones, thyroid gland-produced hormones can also drop sharply that affects a person’s physical state. This results to sluggish feeling and exhaustion on top of being depressed. Immune system changes, blood volume and pressure, and metabolism are linked to mood swings and fatigue.
2. Emotional Factors
Emotional factors include anxiety about infant care as well as self-image struggles due to the physical changes occurring after childbirth. Sleep deprivation caused by caring for the baby also contributes in making usual tasks difficult to handle. Loss of control over life with the major changes in the family can also contribute to this problem.
3. Lifestyle Changes
Welcoming a baby includes lifestyle changes including meeting the demands of both infant and other children. Breast feeding problems, lack of support system like families, and financial problems are also regarded as among the factors working behind the depression.
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
This depression may occur, not only for women having babies for the first time, but also in having other kids. Risk factors include the following:
- History of depression occurring during pregnancy or in other instances
- Postpartum depression triggered by the previous pregnancy
- Relationship issues with spouse or partner
- Stressful events happening within the past year like job loss, illnesses or pregnancy complications
- Lack of or weak support system
- Having an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
- Financial issues
- Bipolar disorder, which is a risk factor postpartum psychosis
Postpartum Depression Treatments
Postpartum depression is treated on the medical and interpersonal approaches.
1. Hormone Therapy
Since estrogen levels lowers down significantly post-pregnancy, estrogen replacement can be helpful in stabilizing its levels and preventing its related postpartum depression symptoms. Despite its potential, studies regarding hormonal replacement as solution are quite limited. Furthermore, patients must consult with physicians about the benefits and risk in undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
These medications are often highly recommended and proven effective solution for this depression. Nevertheless, these medications can be absorbed in the system resulting to mixing it with breast milk. Several antidepressants, however, are prescribed during pregnancy, but with minimal effects on the infant. Patients are also advised to discuss its risks and benefits with the primary care provider.
A mental health professional such as a psychologist or psychiatrist conducts counseling and walk patients through the process of dealing with emotions cause by having a baby in the family. Family and couples counseling can also be conducted to cope up with overwhelming feelings that result to this depressive state.
Postpartum Depression Remedies
1. Diet and Exercise Can Help
Allot several minutes or hours in a day to exercise. Simple activities like pushing the stroller, walking and other minor activities alleviate mood. Eat healthier by following balanced diet to gain control over life. Drink more than eight glasses of water to promote healthier body. This will restore the body’s pre-pregnancy state, which improves self-image and boost self-esteem.
2. Take a Break
Caring for the baby all day and all night is exhausting. Mothers diagnosed with postpartum clinical conditions find themselves having problems sleeping, but it is recommended to take a break from the usual tasks. Read a magazine or ask a trusted individual to look after the baby and go out for a breather.
3. Take Things Slow
Having a baby is a good opportunity to take things slow at home. Avoid doing other tasks while the baby rests. Mothers are recommended to rest with their babies as break for the usual household chores. Working moms on maternity leave are also advised to avoid the excitement of going back to work soon and thinking about their jobs.
4. Share Feelings with Others
It is important to share feelings with another individual to avoid being overwhelmed with emotions. A trusted friend can listen in times when a mother wants to relieve her from her feelings. Joining a support group like mother’s group is also beneficial to discuss about such topics.
5. Care for Your Body
Taking time to deal with physical appearance helps new mothers to feel good about themselves. A relaxing bath while the spouse or partner watches the baby is a good way to take care of the body. Simple rewards like shopping can also be helpful.
6. Lower Self-expectation
Experiencing depression or anxiety can be challenging. The simple process of getting out of bed is already an achievement for the day. It is advised to avoid pressure and take things slow when diagnosed with these issues.
Postpartum Depression Prevention
Women diagnosed with clinical depression and postpartum depression are advised to consult a physician once found out to be expecting a baby. The primary care provider will monitor the pregnant women for depressive symptoms and aid in managing them by recommending support groups and medications. Check up can also be conducted post-delivery to see if there are emerging signs of postpartum depression to prevent it immediately.
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