Bringing your baby into the world is a wonderful feeling and an unforgettable event, but the hormones flowing through your body can send you on an emotional roller coaster for a while after.
Although it seems bizarre, mood swings and depressive episodes are quite common among new mothers -- more than 80% of women experience some gloom in the days following the birth. Typically, these moments of sadness come and go, eventually disappearing after a week or two, but in other cases, they grow stronger and begin to consume the mother's thoughts and actions.
Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a particularly dangerous
disorder because it's often overlooked or minimized. In some cases,
postpartum depression symptoms don't appear for one or two months after
childbirth, which can be puzzling and lead to a misdiagnosis. Learn to
spot the signs of PPD and gather some facts about the causes, diagnosis
and treatment options to overcome this dark disorder.
What does Postpartum Depression Feel Like?
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that may go undiagnosed, as most women have other symptoms of postpartum depression too, like some postpartum sadness and therefore it's thought to be an unavoidable reality.
New mothers often feel the "baby blues," which are generally mild, attributed to hormones and the sudden change in their body and mind, and they make you feel grumpy and weepy for a few days or weeks. This is generally nothing to worry about, but when the sadness begins to interfere with taking care of your newborn baby and gets worse as time goes by, it can have severe effects on your health and the well-being of your baby.
It's important to keep in mind that, like many other illnesses, PPD can look and feel different for different women.
The classic postpartum depression signs:
These may not
appear right away for you, or certain symptoms may be absent altogether.
While some women do lose the ability to function and will turn to suicidal thoughts during the postpartum phase, others simply don’t feel like themselves.
A mother may appear to experience milder
symptoms, but this can be just as damaging to the mother and her family.
What Causes PPD and How to Beat It
Unfortunately, PPD has not been traced to any one cause, but there are some known risk factors. It's thought that PPD is tied to a hormone imbalance, as the levels of estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol in a woman's body fall drastically soon after the baby is born. Some women are more sensitive to hormonal changes than others, which puts them at a higher risk of more severe sadness after delivery.
Of course, medical history is almost always an essential player in disease, and PPD is no exception. If you've suffered from a mental illness in the past, a previous case of postpartum depression or a miscarriage or stillbirth, you're more prone to PPD. Social factors come into play here, too: if there's conflict in your marriage, you lack a support network, or you've lost financial security, there's a good chance that these upsets will amplify your baby blues. Finally, there's the reality of your new situation, and many new parents feel trapped, overwhelmed and run-down when they are faced with the responsibility of raising an infant.
Whether PPD springs from one root or a variety of sources, there are postpartum depression treatment options available. An effective treatment plan will combine self-care at home and professional medical care: you'll be responsible for actively engaging in healthy activity and reaching out to loved ones for support or joining postpartum depression support groups, while your healthcare provider may recommend counseling, along with antidepressant medication.
There are also some alternative therapies that are still being studied, like light and nutritional therapy, which may offer the relief you're looking for. Although PPD can make it seem like you have no power to improve things, rest assured that there are many people and treatments you can turn to, for help.
Did you know that breastfeeding can prevent PPD? Learn more about breastfeeding and postpartum depression prevention.
Would you like to ask your questions about PPD or give us some feedback on what signs of postpartum depression you have experienced...