What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?

About 20% of women who give birth experience symptoms of postpartum depression.  Perinatal Depression is the most common complication of childbearing[1].  This can be surprising as postpartum depression is not often discussed during pregnancy.  Some women suffer in silence as it is suggested that only about 15% of women who experience postpartum depression get treatment.  Postpartum depression is a difficult experience for women and can have short term and long term effects on the woman and on her child.

In this guide, you'll learn:    

Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression     

Causes of Postpartum Depression     

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression     

Short-Term & Long-Term Effects of Postpartum Depression     

Treatments for Postpartum Depression

Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression

Any new mother can experience symptoms of postpartum depression.  It can also develop after any birth of a child, not just a woman’s first birth.  There are, however, some difficulties that raise your risk of developing postpartum depression.  These include:

  • You have a history of depression
  • You have bipolar disorder
  • You had postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy
  • You have family members who have suffered from depression
  • You have experienced stressful events during the past year
  • Your child has health problems
  • You have twins or multiple births (pregnancy within 18 months of each other)
  • You have difficulty breastfeeding
  • Marital or partner difficulties
  • Lack of social support
  • Financial hardships
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

Cause of Postpartum Depression

There is not a single cause of postpartum depression but multiple factors that can contribute to a women experiencing postpartum depression.  Each individual is unique and can have a unique combination of what is causing a woman’s distress.  These contributing factors include:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Nutrient stores depleted from pregnancy
  • Sleep deprived
  • Social Supports
  • Thoughts and mindset
  • Behaviors and actions

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Symptoms can begin any time the first year after giving birth.  Symptoms can differ for everyone and women can experience any combination of symptoms.

  • Feelings of numbness or sadness
  • Severe mood swings
  • Feelings of anger or irritability
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Appetite or sleep disturbances
  • Crying or sadness
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
  • Possible thoughts of harming yourself
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Fear that you are not a good mom
  • Restlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Mothers can have difficulty bonding with their babies, leading to insecure attachment in their children.  Mothers can also have trouble taking care of their children's needs or themselves.  If postpartum depression is not treated, it can last for months to years and can turn into a major depressive disorder.  Children of mothers who suffer from untreated postpartum depression are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems later in childhood.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Treatment for postpartum depression can include both medication and talk therapy.  Studies have found that the most effective treatment is a combination of both.  Your OBGYN or primary care physician can provide you with medication.  I encourage women also to see a therapist to talk about the difficulties she is having.  Becoming a mother is the most significant change you will experience.  This change does not just occur emotionally, but significant physical changes occur within your brain.  You have a different perspective on the world.  Many women do not realize such a significant change occurs, and it can be beneficial for women to discuss these changes with a mental health therapist.  After reading this, if you think you may be experiencing postpartum depression, I encourage you to seek help as soon as possible.  The earlier you get help, the quicker and faster treatment can take place.  You and your child can find relief from your pain.

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