Having a baby is always portrayed as an exciting and joyful event – and it is! But that’s not always the whole story. Many women suffer from depression after pregnancy, known as “postpartum depression.” There’s a whole lot of turmoil in the life of a new parent, not to mention all of the hormonal and physical changes your body continues to go through. Feeling down after having a baby is common and treatable – you just need to know what to look out for!
Postpartum Depression Statistics
Depression after pregnancy is a lot more common than you may think, and many women never seek or receive treatment. Check out these stats:
- Up to 15% of women report depression after pregnancy, and figures are even higher in poverty-stricken areas; this figure does not include unreported cases
- Only 15% of women that report postpartum depression symptoms ever receive professional treatment
- Women that have suffered depression prior to pregnancy are at a higher risk for postpartum depression, but half of women that suffer from postpartum depression have never had symptoms of depression before
- Up to 50% of postpartum depression sufferers continue to have symptoms for more than a year after delivery
Symptoms Of Depression After Pregnancy
The symptoms of depression after pregnancy are similar to those associated with depression in general. The severity ranges from relatively mild “baby blues” to life-threatening postpartum psychosis. However, it can be tough to sort out the normal stresses and anxieties of new parenthood with symptoms of postpartum depression. How can you tell the difference?
Symptoms Of Baby Blues
The mildest sort of postpartum depression is the “baby blues,” which last only a few days or weeks after delivery. You may experience:
- feeling overwhelmed
- trouble sleeping or concentrating
- mood swings
As you can see, it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between a lot of those symptoms and the natural result of having a new baby. If you’re feeling better within a few weeks, it’s likely just baby blues and you probably won’t need to seek treatment. However, you should still consider letting someone you trust know that you’re having a hard time; they can check in on you, give you a hand, and keep an eye out for more serious symptoms.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
If the symptoms listed above are severe or if they last longer than a few weeks, you may be suffering from postpartum depression. You may have severe mood swings, anger, fatigue, or anxiety. Sleeping too much or too little are also common symptoms. And many women suffering from depression after pregnancy struggle to bond with their babies. You may also experience feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy, or guilt. You may have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.
These symptoms can be debilitating and will require treatment – this condition generally does not go away on its own.
Postpartum psychosis is the most extreme form of postpartum depression. It generally develops very quickly after delivery and the symptoms are severe. It can cause extreme confusion, hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and other serious psychological symptoms. This condition can also cause you to attempt to hurt yourself or the baby.
Postpartum psychosis is life-threatening to both you and the baby. If you experience any of those symptoms, you must seek immediate medical attention.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Depression after pregnancy can be an extremely difficult burden to bear. You have enough going on raising a new baby without having to deal with that. But the good news is that it’s treatable.
For relatively mild symptoms, lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Make sure that you’re eating enough and that you’re eating healthy. Exercise regularly. Make sure that you build in some time for yourself – taking a bath or a quiet hour to read or watch your favorite TV show can seriously boost your mood. Also, try to avoid isolation. Stay in touch with your loved ones. They can provide help with the baby and emotional support for you. Talking to other mothers about their experiences with depression after pregnancy can also help you feel less alone and remind you that this is a common condition that isn’t your fault.
If your symptoms are more severe, psychotherapy is generally the next step. Talking to a trained professional can help you work through those feelings and build up strategies to cope with them. You psychotherapist or psychiatrist may recommend antidepressants as well. Some can be taken while breastfeeding with low risks of side effects.
Postpartum psychosis generally requires medication. You may need mood stabilizers, antidepressants, antipsychotics, or some combination of those. These medications may not be safe for the baby if you’re breastfeeding, so you’ll need to work with your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Finally, some medical conditions can affect your mental health – thyroid disorders, for example. You’ll need to work with your doctor to figure out how best to treat that underlying condition.
Overcoming Depression After Pregnancy
The key to addressing (and even preventing) depression after pregnancy is to be aware of and watchful for the symptoms. If you’re suffering from problems with your mood, let your doctor know so that they’re on alert for further developments. If you have previously experienced depression or other mental health conditions, talk to your doctor about it before you deliver. You and your doctor can discuss potential ways to lower the risks and to monitor your mood after delivery. The quicker you catch it, the easier it is to treat.
Depression after pregnancy is common and you’re not alone. Reach out for help and get the treatment you need so that you can enjoy your new baby!
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.