Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition that frequently affects women after giving birth. Specifically, it is very common, impacting up to 1 in 7 women within a year after delivery.
What is Postpartum Depression?
In contrast to the normal sadness after having a baby that passes quickly, postpartum depression is more intense and persistent. If left untreated, it can greatly impact the well-being of the mother, child and family.
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can arise in women in the first few weeks after they deliver a baby. Importantly, symptoms may occur anytime in the first year after birth.
Postpartum depression is more serious than the usual “baby blues” that disappear after a few weeks following childbirth. It can significantly impact a woman’s ability to function and care for herself and her infant. Furthermore, symptoms like extreme fatigue, poor appetite, and frequent crying spells continue over time.
Postpartum depression is different from the rare but severe postpartum psychosis. With postpartum psychosis, new mothers experience delusions, hallucinations and impaired judgment that may lead to harming themselves or their baby. This requires urgent medical care.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Researchers believe several factors contribute to postpartum depression:
- Hormonal Changes – Estrogen and progesterone levels drop sharply after delivery. This dramatic change may trigger mood swings and depression.
- Past Mental Health Problems – Women with a history of depression, anxiety, or unstable moods are more likely to get postpartum depression.
- Emotional Factors – Feeling tired, struggling with breastfeeding, overwhelmed with new duties, or lacking support can raise the risk of postpartum depression.
- Physical Health Factors – Postpartum complications like chronic pain, breastfeeding issues or pregnancy-related diabetes can add to emotional distress.
- Genetic Factors – A family history of depression or mood disorders may increase the risk of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression in women is likely caused by a combination of hormones, genes, body changes, and emotions. However, the exact reasons for this are still unknown. Ongoing research aims to understand these complex factors better.
Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Common signs of postpartum depression include:
- Persistent sadness, frequent crying, hopeless feelings
- Excessive worrying, anxiety or panic attacks
- Irritability, anger or rage
- Loss of interest in enjoyed activities
- Lack of bonding with the baby
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Fatigue, low energy, moving slowly
- Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, indecision
- Appetite and weight changes
- Physical aches, headaches, stomach issues with no clear cause
- Thoughts of harming self or baby
- Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Postpartum depression affects women differently. Specifically, symptoms may arise gradually or suddenly. Some mothers may feel mildly depressed, while others experience severe depression, making functioning difficult.
If you have any concerning symptoms in the first year after delivery, consult your doctor right away. Importantly, postpartum depression is treatable, especially when identified early.
While any new mother can develop postpartum depression, some women have a higher risk. Factors that increase your chance of postpartum depression include:
- Previous personal history of depression, anxiety or unstable moods
- Family history of mood disorders
- Significant premenstrual mood swings or depression during pregnancy
- Traumatic birth experience or pregnancy/delivery complications
- Being under 20 years old at delivery
- Relationship, financial or social stressors
- Lack of strong emotional support
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Domestic violence or trauma history
- Isolation after delivery
- Having multiple babies like twins or triplets
If you have any risk factors, be extra watchful for signs of postpartum depression after giving birth. This is especially important in the weeks and months following childbirth. Let your doctor know promptly so they can take interventions to prevent worsening.
When to Seek Help for Postpartum Depression
Do not dismiss ongoing sadness or severe mood swings as normal after having a baby. Reach out for professional help if you:
- Feel depressed, anxious or hopeless most days
- Have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Lose interest in caring for yourself or your baby
- Notice relationship problems or isolation from loved ones
- Struggle with daily tasks like eating, sleeping and making choices
- Cry frequently and cannot control your emotions
- Have panic attacks or intrusive, frightening thoughts
Your doctor can screen for postpartum depression using a simple questionnaire. Be open about all your symptoms. With timely treatment, most women experience full recovery within several months.
Today, many effective treatment options exist for postpartum depression:
- Medications – Doctors often prescribe antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac and Lexapro to improve mood. Doctors also recommend counseling to learn coping strategies.
- Psychotherapy – Talk therapy helps address contributing factors and regain emotional control. Doctors frequently use cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Mother-Child Therapy – Joint counseling strengthens the bond between mother and baby and supports healthy infant development.
- Support Groups – Sharing experiences and advice with other mothers can reduce isolation and provide perspective.
- Alternative Therapies – Options like acupuncture, massage, yoga and light therapy may complement conventional treatment.
- Self-Care – Adequate rest, nutritious foods, exercise and support from loved ones all facilitate recovery.
A combination of medication and psychotherapy is often the most effective approach. Doctors tailor treatment plans to each woman’s specific symptoms and needs. Most mothers start feeling relief within several weeks.
Ways to Prevent Postpartum Depression
If you are planning to have a baby or recently gave birth, take proactive steps to help prevent postpartum depression:
- Attend prenatal counseling if you have risk factors for depression
- Connect with strong social support before and after delivery
- Share feelings openly with your partner during pregnancy and postpartum
- Set realistic expectations about responsibilities after birth
- Get adequate rest, nutrition and exercise after delivery
- Limit visitors initially to reduce stress
- Ask loved ones for help with specific household tasks
- Schedule relaxing self-care activities daily
- Attend postpartum checkups to discuss emotional health
- Seek treatment right away if symptoms arise to prevent worsening
Caring for your mental health is just as vital as your physical well-being postpartum.
Building a strong support network and being proactive about self-care reduces your risk of postpartum depression. However, if concerning symptoms develop, promptly seek professional help.
Hope and Healing After Postpartum Depression
Recovering from postpartum depression takes time, commitment and courage to ask for support when needed. You have the capability to succeed in this! One step at a time. Here are some positive steps on the path to hope and healing:
- Celebrate each small step forward on difficult days. Even getting dressed or eating is an accomplishment.
- Remind yourself this is temporary, and you are getting stronger. Do mood-boosting activities like walking outside or listening to music.
- Share thoughts and feelings with supportive loved ones who listen without judgment. There is hope that brighter days will come!
- Increase social interactions with caring friends and family. Limit time spent in isolation.
- Accept offers of household help from trusted loved ones. Please inform me if you require anything – I am here to assist you.
- Continue your treatment plan. Medication and therapy work best together.
- It is understandable not to be okay. Reach out whenever you need support.
- Your feelings are valid – but they do not wholly define your identity as a mother.
- The most difficult days of postpartum depression do eventually pass with diligent treatment.
- Be gentle with yourself. You’re still healing and adjusting.
Coping with postpartum depression is extremely challenging. But with compassionate support and proper treatment, you can recover and thrive after this difficult experience.
Be gentle, patient and kind with yourself on the journey to feeling hopeful and positive again. You are performing admirably – being a new mother presents difficulties even without PPD.
Your baby is fortunate to have a caring mother.
Help is available if you or a loved one is struggling with postpartum depression. Dr. Benejam is an experienced, judgment-free therapist who provides compassionate support to new moms. You can schedule a consultation by calling (561) 376-9699 / (305) 981-6434 or sending a message via contact page.
With the right treatment tailored to your needs, you can overcome postpartum depression and enjoy motherhood again.
You are stronger than you realize – take the first step and reach out today. Dr. Benejam is ready to help guide you on your path to hope, healing and happiness.