Everything You Need to Know About Postpartum Depression Signs, Symptoms and Treatments
Giving birth to a baby triggers a number of emotions from joy and excitement to anxiety and fear. Sometimes, it results in depression. Most new mothers experience baby blues after childbirth which comes with things like mood swings, difficulty in sleeping, anxiety, and crying. Baby blues usually come two or three days after delivering the baby and it may continue for 2 weeks.
However, for some mothers, the baby blues continue for more than 2 weeks which is now referred to as a postpartum depression. This is not a weakness but rather a complication after giving birth. A mother that experiences postpartum depression needs to seek medical attention so that she can return to normalcy so that she can bond with her newborn baby. And a study shows it is getting common in developing countries.
Postpartum depression is not a sign that you do not love your child. But it is a psychological disorder which can be treated like any other sickness. The treatment may include counseling, support group or medication if need be.
This disorder is not only exclusive to mothers only. According to studies, it has been found that 10% of new fathers undergo postpartum depression. The diagnosis of this condition is not based on the number of days it takes to occur after the delivery of the baby but on the seriousness of the depression.
This condition is linked to the social, chemical and psychological changes to comes with having a newborn baby. The chemical changes involve a drastic fall in the hormones after delivery. The level of progesterone and estrogen increases during pregnancy. After delivery, these hormones fall drastically after delivery. It takes 3 days after delivery for these hormones to drop to their normal level before she conceived. The social and psychological factors also contribute to depression.
Postpartum depression can be classified into three main categories. And these are:
- Baby blues – this is a normal occurrence to most women immediately after delivery. It occurs mostly to new mothers who experience mood swings and other mixed feelings. The baby blues normally last for a few days to a maximum of 2 weeks after giving birth. They do not require any form of treatment because it will subside on its own.
- Postpartum depression – it happens a few weeks or months after delivery. This condition can happen after the delivery of any child, not just the firstborn child. It has symptoms similar to those of baby blues but they are stronger than those for baby blues. In most cases, the symptoms affect the normal functioning of the mother and they can be treated with medical attention.
- Postpartum psychosis – this is a serious mental condition that affects mothers. The disease comes usually within 3 months of childbearing. It includes symptoms like a woman becoming hallucinating, losing touch with reality and delusions among other signs. This condition needs immediate medical attention because the mother might hurt herself sometimes.
The risk of developing postpartum depression is increased by the following factors:
- Age of the mother when she became pregnant. Younger mother is the risk of getting depression.
- If you have a history of depression before you conceived
- If you are living alone
- If there are any marriage problems
- Ambivalence about the pregnancy
- If you do not have sufficient social support
- If you have many children. A mother with many children is more likely to become depressed
- If you have a history of the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
PPD is not caused by a single factor. However, physical and emotional issues play a major role.
- Emotional changes – if you are not getting enough sleep, you are likely not to be able to handle even simple matters. It might be anxiety about how you will be able to take care of the baby. Or you might be struggling with a sense of identity or you have lost control of your life or you feel less attractive. All these factors can contribute to developing PPD.
- Physical changes – as mentioned above, after giving birth to a baby, you will experience a drastic fall of hormones. The drop in the level of hormones in the body can result in feeling depressed, tired and sluggish.
- Pregnancy complication or difficulty during childbirth
- Worries about your relationship
- Excessive worry about the responsibility of becoming a parent
- Financial difficulties
- Changes in your sleep pattern
- A history of having a mental disorder
- Lack of support from the family
- The health consequences of child delivery. This may include conditions like blood pressure changes, urinary incontinence, changes in metabolism and anemia
- Loneliness due to lack of people or even family around you
The symptoms of PPD vary from one mother to another. And sometimes the signs vary from one day to another. The most common kinds of symptoms to look out for include the following:
- You cannot sleep for long
- You cry a lot and feel sad even without a reason
- You cannot stop eating. Or you do not want to see food at all
- You feel exhausted but you cannot sleep
- You feel out of control
- You feel like everything is hopeless and overwhelming
- You have body aches and illnesses that you cannot explain
- You cannot remember things
- You feel anxious, irritable and angry for no reason
- You cannot be able to make a simple decision
- You experience sudden mood swings
- You want to isolate yourself from everything and everyone around you
- You feel disconnected from your bundle of joy and you cannot find any joy holding your baby
- You feel unworthy and guilty
- You have thoughts of harming your baby and yourself
- You cannot open up to anyone about your feelings because you think
- you are a bad mother
- You are restless
- You have difficulty bonding with your child
- You lose interest in the things you used to love
Prevention is better than cure, the wise man said. If you have a history of depression ensure that you inform your doctor as soon as you find out that you are expectant. Besides that, you can take the following two steps:
If you inform your doctor early enough, during the pregnancy period your doctor will monitor you closely for any signs of depression. The doctor can give you a depression screen questionnaire which you can feel during and after delivery. If you have mild depression, it can be treated with the help of counseling or help groups. If the depression becomes severe, you can be medication even while you are pregnant to help you overcome depression.
After you have delivered your child, your doctor can perform a PPD checkup for any signs of the condition. If the condition is detected early, treatment can start early and it will be contained easily. If you have undergone PPD, immediately after delivering your child, your doctor may recommend starting using antidepressants to manage the condition.
If you are a parent and you see any of the symptoms listed above, you should see a medical doctor for further diagnosis. The condition is treatable even though for some patients it might take several months.
The first step in treating this condition is accepting and acknowledging that you have the disease. Your partner, friends, and family members can help you manage the problem and you will be able to recover faster.
It is also important for you to express yourself freely how you feel to someone you trust. Do not repress your emotions. If your partner or close people around you feel excluded from your problem, it might injure your relationship which is likely to worsen the depression.
Besides that, find a support group. support groups help to connect you with other patients that are having the same problem or they can offer some useful guidance on how to deal with the depression. A support group will help to reduce the feeling of being alone.
The condition can also be treated with the use of medications. The most common kind of medication used is antidepressants. These drugs are meant to balance the chemicals in your brain which are causing the depression.
The antidepressants will help to deal with symptoms such as loneliness, sleeplessness, concentration. The drugs can also help you bond with your baby. However, the bad thing about antidepressants is that you can pass them to your child through breast milk.
There are some antidepressants that are not safe to use while breastfeeding while others have no effect. Besides that, if you have any other conditions such as epilepsy, heart disease or severe depression, some antidepressants are not good.
You should talk to your doctor about your feeding options so that the doctor can be able to know which medication is ideal for you.
PPD can also be treated with the help of therapy. According to studies, PPD can be treated with the help of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment therapy is based on the principle that depression is triggered by thoughts. You will be thought how to manage your thoughts so that you change them from negative to positive thoughts.
When all form s of treatment for PPD have failed, it can be treated with the help of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This therapy is given under an anesthesia and muscle relaxants. This is a very effective mode of treatment for very severe depression.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you do not get treatment for PPD, it can have serious effects on you and your newborn child. Seek professional help when:
- You are feeling extremely anxious, panicking or scared most the time
- Your depression signs continue for more than 2 weeks
- You have strong thoughts of harming your baby and yourself
- You are not able to function as a normal person
- You cannot control the simple day to day activities
Postnatal Depression Exercise
Research has found out that exercise can help you deal with PPD. Exercise helps you to secret the feel-good hormone which will go a long way to help you feel better. According to studies, exercise help in the release of endorphins which help in the alleviate depression. Staying active after giving birth will help you not to get depression.
High-intensity exercise is helpful in dealing with depression symptoms. The kind of exercise does not matter. The most common exercises that are recommended for postnatal depression include the following:
Exercise helps to increase your energy levels, boost your moods and make you feel generally good both physically and emotionally. Besides the exercise, take good care of yourself and you will manage depression.
Importance of Postnatal Exercise
There are numerous postnatal exercise benefits. They include the following:
- Exercise helps to improve your moods, relieve stress and make you feel good hence preventing PPD.
- It helps to firm up your body and increase muscle strength
- It promotes the loss of extra weight gained during pregnancy
- It helps to heal anybody aches and pains that you might be having after child delivery
- Exercise helps to improve your general well being making you feel less tired because the energy level will be high.
- It helps your abdominal muscles to tone up and regain their original shape
- Exercise is ideal for cardiovascular health and thereby improving the circulation of blood in your body
- It enhances the level of stamina this, in turn, helps you to be in control of your body and life.
- Exercise will help your pelvic floor to regain its original shape. There are various exercises that are meant to help your pelvic floor to resume its original state before you became pregnant and eventually gave birth.
- Exercise helps to reduce PPD by your mind becoming more free and open to good thoughts
To gain maximum benefits from postnatal exercise, ensure that you engage in both cardio and weight-bearing exercises. Do simple cardio exercises like walking 2 to 3 times per week for half an hour to forty-five minutes. Also, do weight-bearing for at least 3 times per weeks.
Importance of Postnatal Yoga
One of the most excellent postnatal exercises is yoga. Practicing yoga helps your body to recover from the pains and aches of childbearing. You can start doing yoga after the 6th week. The gentle nature of yoga will do more than helping your body regain its original shape because it will also help you deal with the hormonal changes and fluctuating moods.
The benefits of yoga are both for the physical and emotional well being. The following are the benefits of engaging in yoga after child delivery:
- Yoga helps your neck and shoulder muscles to relax
- It tones and shapes up the entire body
- Yoga is ideal in making the body flexible so that can be able to do other chores without a problem
- Yoga helps to boost self-confidence. Besides that, it helps in self-control
- Yoga is known for its rejuvenating of the spiritual life. Apart from that, it helps to recharge the mind so that you can have a sharp memory
- It promotes general relaxation of the whole body thereby decreasing any form of stress
- It helps the pelvic muscle floor, back and abdominal muscles to become strong
- Yoga helps to increase endurance and general body stamina
- Yoga helps the body to increase its energy reserves from the inside
- It helps to expand the breathing capacity
- It promotes the balancing of the hormones
- It promotes the movement of fluids and detoxification
- It improves the circulation of blood to different parts of the body
- Yoga promotes the repair and growth of different body cells
- Yoga is a complete exercise for the whole body
- It helps in the realignment of the spine
- Yoga helps to relax and have deep rest
- It helps to build the confidence to hold the baby
- Since you sometimes you cannot do it alone, it helps you to connect with other mothers who are taking yoga classes
- It helps in the bonding between you and your child
- It helps to connect between breathing and your emotions
- It helps to ease the effects of weight-bearing