Before we plunge into details of the different symptoms we should know the basic information regarding postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) also called “postnatal depression” is a severe form of clinical depression a woman may get after having a baby. For some women, it is normal to feel the “baby blues” for few weeks after giving birth. However the depression is most commonly faced during the first three weeks after childbirth. The mother may feel sad, hopeless and guilty as she may not want to bond with or care for her baby.
Causes of postpartum depression
The causes of PPD is not well known. However hormonal changes, genetics or major life events are recognized as potential causes.
The hormone levels change during pregnancy and right after childbirth. These hormonal changes may give rise to chemical changes in the brain. Some of the causes include:
- Physical changes – After childbirth, a drop in the hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) in the body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones such as ones produced by the thyroid gland may also drop leading to sluggish, depressed feelings.
- Emotional problems – Sleep deprivation may cause trouble in handling even minor problems. One may feel anxious, less attractive etc.
Other risk factors include the following:
- Bipolar disorder
- Prenatal depression or anxiety
- Maternity blues
- Birth related physical or psychological trauma
- Cigarette smoking
- Previous stillbirth or miscarriage
- Oxytocin depletion
- Elevated Prolactin level
- Health problems of the baby
- Weak support system
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- History of depression or any other mood disorder in the family
- Stressful events during pregnancy
- Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Financial problems
Treatment of Postpartum depression
Diagnosis is based on a person’s symptoms. While most women experience a brief period of worry or unhappiness after a delivery, postpartum depression should be suspected when symptoms are severe and last over two weeks. Among those at risk, providing psychological support may be protective in preventing PPD. Treatment for PPD include counselling or medications. Effective counselling include interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and psychodynamic therapy.
Postpartum psychosis is not a formal diagnosis, but is widely used to describe a psychiatric emergency that appears to occur in which symptoms like high mood and racing thoughts, depression, confusion, etc. begin all of a sudden in the first two weeks after delivery. It is different from postpartum depression and maternity blues. Most of the severe symptoms last up to 12 weeks and recovery may take 6 months to a year. Treatment methods include use of antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers and if needed electroconvulsive therapy too if serious.
11 Early Signs of Postpartum Depression
Childbirth can trigger many powerful feelings and emotions. When signs of depression occur after childbirth, they can signal postpartum depression. The following symptoms may be looked into for conformity.
Women with PPD may feel hopeless and sorrowful. They may be in low spirits all the time. They may lack interest in their hobbies and activities. Many cannot make out the reason for their sadness. In rare cases, women with PPD even begin to ignore the child and their own parental duties.
Women suffering from PPD also show unpredictable mood and temper. They may be normal one minute and agitated the next showing intense reactions. The mood swings may make them exhausted leading to self loathing and sense of hopelessness.
Sense of doubt
A lot of women feel overwhelmed at the prospect of motherhood. However they may suddenly feel inadequate as caregivers and doubt their ability to take care of the child. The extreme thought may be of abandoning the child or regret for having the child at all. It starts within two weeks after childbirth up to a few months if diagnosed properly.
Postpartum depression also tends to provoke crying spells in mothers. They may be found crying at odd times without any reason and sometimes with almost a violent intensity at severe cases. In such case the child should be kept away till the mother becomes normal.
Memory and concentration
PPD patients may face problems with their memory and concentration levels. They may tend to ignore work, often get lost in thoughts, worrying or get anxious. Mothers may forget whether they have fed, dressed or bathed the baby.
Women with PPD have changes in their sleep cycle. They may tend to experience insomnia or sleep for longer period of time than usual. They may tend to feel sleepy. This may be in accordance with that baby’s schedule of sleeping and waking.
Patterns of eating
An increase or decrease in the mother’s appetite may be a sign of postpartum depression. Rejecting favourite food, binge eating, skipping meals or eating at odd times is also witnessed among mothers. This maybe due to the eating patterns of the baby however if it continues then it is a sign of the depression.
Women with PPD may try to avoid social contact and live an isolated life due to the physical and mental fatigue they suffer due a paraphernalia of thoughts which keep racing in their mind. They may feel low and worthless.
Sense of exhaustion
Taking the responsibility of another human being is quite a tedious task requiring hours of care. As a mother it is quite exhausting. However if the mother feels tired all the day this may also be a sign of both physical and mental fatigue. This may also be a symptom of postpartum depression.
Thoughts of suicide or harming oneself can also come in the thoughts of a mother having PPD. This is due to self doubt and worthless feelings. This is a severe stage and requires help urgently.
Restlessness is a symptom present in mothers suffering from PPD. This may be due to the scary thoughts that she may have regarding they baby. She may feel irritated easily. In such case the baby should be kept with the mother for the least amount of time.
These are some of the major symptoms of postpartum depression. However there are certain secondary symptoms as well. If serious the mothers should be treated immediately.