After giving birth, you'll likely feel a large range of emotions. These emotions can be both positive and negative - you may feel elated one moment, and anxious the next.
If you're experiencing symptoms of anxiety such as worry, mood swings, and trouble sleeping, you may simply be going through the 'baby blues'. While this can be difficult, it's very common, and usually only lasts up to two weeks after you gave birth.
However, in some cases, the 'baby blues' can be mistaken for a mental health condition called postpartum depression. In rare cases, new moms can also develop postpartum psychosis, a very serious mood disorder.
Though it can be awful to go through, postpartum depression can be very successfully treated with medicine and therapy. This blog will give you an overview of what to look out for, as knowing what to ask your doctor can help you get the right treatment.
In this article:
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a form of depression which can develop after childbirth. It is often mistaken for being the 'baby blues', but postpartum depression is often more severe, and lasts for a longer time.
Postpartum depression can cause you to feel sad, empty, and hopeless. It can also make you feel as though you can't connect with, and don't love and care for your baby, or even that you aren't truly the mother of your baby - all of which can be very distressing to feel.
It's important to recognize that struggling with postpartum depression isn't a weakness, character flaw, or anyone's fault. Postpartum depression is a very treatable mental disorder, and knowing the symptoms can help you quickly receive the right treatment to get yourself back on track, and having a great time with your baby.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression
Postpartum depression can cause a large variety of symptoms, some of which can be quite severe. Commonly, symptoms will develop in the first month or so since you gave birth, but the known possible timeframe is actually from before giving birth, to up to a year afterwards.
Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling sad, empty, or hopeless
- Feeling irritable or angry
- Crying a lot
- Anxiety, mood swings, and panic attacks
- Sleeping difficulties - this can include struggling to sleep, or sleeping for too long
- Fatigue, lack of energy and motivation
- Reduced appetite, or eating much more than usual
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities you usually enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Headaches, stomach aches, and other physical pains
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Worrying about being a bad mother, or being not good enough
- Feeling as though you aren't bonding or connecting with your baby
- Feeling as though your baby is not your own
- Suicidal thoughts
Postpartum depression can also cause new moms to feel guilty or ashamed, since they believe giving birth is supposed to be a happy time. It often is a happy time, but nevertheless, anyone can develop depression either while pregnant, or after childbirth - and it definitely doesn't mean you're a bad mother.
If you're experiencing any of these symptoms (or any symptoms of other mental disorders), it's important to tell someone, such as a midwife, doctor, or other mental health professional, so you can promptly receive help and advice. If it is depression causing your symptoms, you can then go on to receive treatment.
What causes postpartum depression?
There are numerous causes of postpartum depression. These can be physical issues, as well as emotional ones.
One physical change is the reduction of hormones in your body which happens after giving birth. The quick decrease in levels of estrogen and progesterone can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
The amount of hormones which are produced by your thyroid (a gland in your neck which regulates energy use) can also drop, causing reduced energy and depression. Decreased levels of thyroid hormones can be detected with a blood test, and treated with medicine.
Your feelings can also play a part in postpartum depression. It's very common for new moms to feel very tired after giving birth, due to the process of birth itself, or due to sleeping difficulties. You may also feel overwhelmed by your baby, and worry about your ability to care for them.
The changes a new baby brings to your established routines can cause stress, as can societal pressures, such as the unrealistic standard of being a 'perfect' mother. You may also feel less attractive, or worry you've lost the person you were before you gave birth.
All of these things can contribute towards feelings of depression. Though it can happen to anyone, it isn't a regular part of motherhood, and should not be expected. Postpartum depression is a serious mental disorder, but it can be treated very effectively.
How common is postpartum depression?
According to PostpartumDepression.org (in an article medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon M.D.), the 'baby blues' are experienced by 70 to 80 percent of moms in the United States. Around 10 to 20 percent will go on to experience more serious postpartum depression.
They also mention a study in which 1/7 women were found to experience some form of postpartum depression after childbirth. To add to this, the numbers they report are only considering live births - postpartum depression can also affect women who miscarry or have stillbirths. The numbers are estimated to be higher than what is reported, as it's possible women may experience postpartum depressions but not report the symptoms and receive treatment.
Women from every kind of background can experience postpartum depression. While it is not as uncommon as we'd all hope, it's important to remember that many mothers receive swift treatment and recover without experiencing postpartum psychosis.
When does postpartum depression start?
It's possible for postpartum depression to start prior to giving birth to up to a year afterwards. However, it's more common for symptoms to begin within the first couple of weeks after childbirth.
The 'baby blues' stage may begin immediately after you give birth, but usually only lasts for a few days at the most, and generally doesn't require medical attention.
If symptoms are severe, are making it difficult for you to care for your baby, or last longer than around two weeks, you're more likely to be experiencing postpartum depression.
It's important to let a medical or mental health professional know about your symptoms if you have any concerns, so you can receive any treatment you might need.
Postpartum depression - how long does it last?
How long postpartum depression lasts is different for everyone. As mentioned on Healthline.com, a review of studies from 2014 suggests that many cases are resolved in 3 to 6 months, with symptoms continually improving. However, this isn't necessarily the norm.
Untreated postpartum depression can last for months and even years, which is why it's so crucial to speak to a medical professional about any symptoms you are experiencing.
Even with treatment, there are certain risk factors moms can have that can result in it lasting longer than usual. These factors include whether or not your pregnancy had complications, if you have a personal or family history of depression or another chronic depressive disorder, the amount of support you receive from friends and family, and whether you've experienced postpartum depression with a previous pregnancy.
How does postpartum depression get diagnosed?
If you're experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression, make sure to let a medical professional, such as a midwife or doctor, know as soon as possible. Your partner, or other friends and family may notice symptoms when you don't, so it can be useful to let them know what to look out for.
Discussing your symptoms with a professional can lead to you getting a diagnosis, usually from a doctor or a psychologist. Once diagnosed, you can start receiving treatment.
Treatments can vary depending on the symptoms you are presenting. You may be offered medicine and or talk therapy, or helped with joining a support group so you can chat with other moms who are experiencing postpartum depression - this is usually done online or over the phone. You can also receive help from a maternal health education program.
It's also vital to never underestimate the importance of self-care! Eating well, getting some exercise, and setting aside time to relax and unwind can work wonders, and so can ensuring you're sleeping enough.
When it comes to sleep, a good way of making sure you're sleeping well is ensuring that your baby is as well. To that end, it can be worth following a baby sleep schedule such as the following:
If your little one is struggling to sleep, dressing them in our Zen Sack™ Classic can help them out - it's a gently weighted sleeping sack, which soothes and calms them just like your touch.
Questions to ask your doctor about postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is a very distressing thing for a new mom to deal with. It's worth remembering though that it can happen to anyone, and is no one's fault. Most importantly, it doesn't mean you're a bad mother.
If you have any concerns, raise them with a medical professional as soon as possible. There is a lot of support available, and with it, postpartum depression can be dealt with, allowing you to make a full recovery, and get back to enjoying quality time with your little one.