Giving birth to a child is a source of great joy for most women, not to mention a relief given she has spent the last 9 months undergoing very trying changes to her body. But it's exactly because of those changes to her body that the period after she gives birth can be a time of incredible sadness and negativity for some women. This is what's called postpartum depression, and it's related to changes in the woman's hormonal balance that occur very suddenly and profoundly right after she's given birth to the baby.
Answering the question of what is postpartum depression isn’t quite so simple, however, so let’s have a look at it in greater detail. We’ll discuss postpartum depression symptoms and what people can do to help and support women who are going through this unfortunate development during what should be a very joyous time in their lives.
Postpartum Depression Causes
Hormonal changes aren’t the exclusive cause of this condition. Physical and emotional factors after childbirth are part of it too, and it’s important to know that it is in no way a voluntary choice on the part of the woman. It’s easy to understand that a woman is going to be physically exhausted after the process of giving birth, and she’s often emotionally exhausted too. These exhaustions also contribute to the condition, and sleep deprivation can too.
Then there is the role of whether the mother has her own history of depression or mental illness, or if it runs in her family. Women with either will be at greater risk for postpartum depression. Having extreme emotional, health, financial or relationship stress within the year leading up to or during the pregnancy can also increase her chances of developing this mental health condition.
Lastly, women who give birth after unplanned pregnancies or do so at especially young or older ages (under 20 or over 40 generally) are more prone to suffer from it.
Postpartum Depression Types and Symptoms
There are different types of this mental health condition, and they are:
- Postpartum Blues – This is a milder and more short-term type of the condition, and it affects around 30 to 80% of new mothers. Postpartum depression symptoms here include sadness, tiredness, crying, insomnia, and anxiety.
- Postpartum Anxiety – This type can last from just weeks to many months after childbirth, and postpartum depression symptoms here are intense and chronic anxiety. Often this anxiety is based around a constant fear that something bad is going to happen to the baby.
- Postpartum OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) – This type will onset about 4 to 5 months before the baby arrives and then will last for roughly a full month or so afterwards. Postpartum depression symptoms here include disturbing thoughts of the baby suffering harm or worries about being left alone with the infant.
- Postpartum Panic Disorder – This is also a form of postpartum anxiety, and the symptoms here are racing heart, tightening chest, hyperventilation, dizziness, and weakness. The woman can be in a panic and experiencing these symptoms for any number of different reasons related to her life situations.
- Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – This type of postpartum depression is the 2nd least common, and it’s also the hardest to treat. It is a disorder that results from trauma occurred during childbirth or following it. Common causes of it are when the woman requires a C-section (Caesarean) to give birth or she is separated from the infant when it needs to go into NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Postpartum depression symptoms here include extreme hysteria, anger, profound mood swings, and periods of hyperstimulation followed by opposing periods of extreme detachment and lethargy.
- Postpartum Psychosis – This is the rarest type, and fortunately it’s almost never seen in women. When it is, thought, the individual will be display postpartum depression symptoms that include agitation, hallucinations, unfounded fears, memory loss, confusion, and frantic overreactions to mild stimuli. Further, the woman may begin to take disinterest in her newborn baby.
Postpartum Depression for Men
Interestingly, postpartum depression isn’t exclusive to women. Men can also suffer from it, and when they do the signs of postpartum depression tend to come on more gradually. Postpartum depression symptoms can onset anytime over the first year of the child’s life, while for a woman theirs will onset nearly immediately most of the time. Postpartum depression symptoms for men include depression, guilt, loss of interest in social or other activities, lack of sleep, and difficulty concentrating on tasks. Less common ones are irritability, frustrations, and exhibiting violent or angry behaviors.
Postpartum Depression Treatments
With a firm understanding of what is postpartum depression in place, we can now shift our focus to answering how is postpartum depression treated. The first consideration will be the severity of the person’s postpartum depression symptoms, their existing medical history, and any other needs that should be taken into account.
Treatment generally involves psychotherapy with a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist. The two most common types of psychotherapy for the condition are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and IPT (interpersonal therapy). Relationship therapy – meaning have better quality relationships with your spouse or partner and family – is also very helpful here
Most often this therapy is paired with a course of prescription medication. SSRI antidepressant medications like Effexor , Paxil ,Prozac, and Celexa, among others, are usually effective for mediating a woman’s (or man’s) postpartum depression symptoms. Medication is usually helpful for the first 6 to 12 months and patients can stop taking it after their symptoms have subsided because this is not a chronic condition.
In severe cases antipsychotic drugs may be prescribed, and it is important to understand that these drugs can interfere with the quality of woman’s breast milk so this is something that should be discussed with the physician. Antidepressant medication will not have these affects and it is perfectly safe to breastfeed while taking these types of meds (SSRIs).
IMPORTANT NOTE: The above information is intended to increase awareness of health information and does not suggest treatment or diagnosis. This information is not a substitute for individual medical attention and should not be construed to indicate that use of the drug is safe, appropriate, or effective for you. See your health care professional for medical advice and treatment.