Postpartum depression is a mental health disorder that can occur in the weeks and months after giving birth. While many women do not experience postpartum depression, many do. It is estimated that up to 20% of women experience postpartum depression and, if unprepared, can be an added challenge for families who are also caring for a newborn.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
After giving birth, women can go through an extensive range of emotions, which is perfectly normal. However, some women experience a more intense level of sadness, hopelessness, irritability, and anxiety that are severe enough to interfere with caring for the baby.
Some more common symptoms to be on the alert for include:
While there is no one cause of postpartum depression, research has concluded that it is likely the result of a combination of physical (hormonal) and psychological factors. For some women, postpartum depression may be related to a previous history of mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. Other risk factors include lack of social support, stress, and sleep deprivation. The emotional toll of postpartum depression can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, which can make management of postpartum depression even more difficult.
If you're experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or if you believe a new mom may have postpartum depression, it is essential to identify the issue so that a treatment plan can be developed, as there is no one-size-fits-all remedy.
Since the best treatment for postpartum depression will vary from person to person, some treatments or combinations of treatments that may be effective for managing postpartum depression.
This form of therapy is designed to help the individual identify and change negative thinking patterns, teach coping and problem-solving skills, and provide support and guidance through difficult emotions. It offers emotional support that a woman suffering from postpartum depression crucially needs.
Medication (such as antidepressants)
Sometimes, a woman may require medication for a short to help her body manage the depression. Some commonly prescribed medications for postpartum depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). Importantly, it is important to understand that this form of treatment is often required for a short time as postpartum depression often subsides within months.
A key therapy for new moms is reaching out to family and friends for advice and support. Or, it may be helpful to find a local group of new moms. It is key for a woman to remember; that they are not alone and there is no stigma to the depression, they may be feeling. Commonly, women benefit from a combination of these treatments.
It is usual for women to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. However, if a woman feels too overwhelmed to function, it's essential to seek help from a healthcare provider or mental health professional. These self-care strategies can include exercise, getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, spending time with friends and family members who support you, and taking breaks when needed. As a baby becomes easier to manage, signs of postpartum depression often diminish and subside.