Postpartum depression is the name given to depression that can occur in a woman after giving birth. Although it generally occurs within three months of the birth, it can take up to a year to develop. Some changes in mood, tearfulness and anxiety shortly after having a baby are perfectly normal and natural, and are often termed the ‘baby blues’. This can result from changes in hormone levels and the body during pregnancy and birth, tiredness, changes to your routine and family structure and even concerns about your ability to cope in your new role as a mom. These feelings usually disappear after a while and are nothing to worry about. However, if you have prolonged feelings of anxiety or depression that won’t ease, then you may have postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Post Partum Depression
Symptoms are often similar to the general symptoms of depression. These include;
- Feelings of sadness or depression that won’t go away. These are often also accompanied by anxiety.
- Loss of pleasure or interest in activities and hobbies formerly enjoyed. You may become withdrawn from family or social contacts.
- Intense feelings of guilt and low self worth. You may feel as though your depression is your fault and you are somehow to blame for it.
- Your appetite may change. Often you will lose your appetite and lose weight, but sometimes you may overeat and gain weight.
- Difficulty sleeping and extreme tiredness. You may find it difficult to undertake day to day tasks.
In addition, you may have negative feelings towards your new baby, and have little interest in taking care of it. Some moms with postpartum depression may even have thoughts of harming their baby, although these thoughts are very rarely actually carried out.
Some moms worry about their new baby’s health and well being out of all proportion. In more severe cases, they may experience hallucinations or voices.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
It is not fully understood what causes the normal ‘baby blues’ to develop into an actual depression, but several risk factors have been identified. These include already having a history of depression or anxiety related illness. You may also be at increased risk of postpartum depression if you have problems in your life, such as relationship or debt issues, or if the pregnancy was unplanned. Substance misuse, such as drugs or alcohol, can also be a factor.
How Can It Be Treated?
Postpartum depression may be treated with certain types of antidepressant medication that can be taken safely while breastfeeding. Counseling and treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may also be offered. Your family and close friends can also be a source of support.
Depending on where you live, there may be support groups available that you could join. If you think that you may have postpartum depression or can identify with any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek help from your doctor as soon as possible.
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