A Guide to Cope with Postpartum Depression

Updated on September 29th, 2020
Postpartum Depression

Most women experience anxiety, mood changes, and tearfulness in the weeks following childbirth. However, these symptoms may become more severe and persistent, indicating postnatal or postpartum depression.

According to a review of clinical studies (2014), postpartum depression usually begins within the initial three months after giving birth. According to the researchers, it can remain a long term problem for a few women, mainly if they don’t receive treatment.

Almost fifteen percent of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth, which translates to about 1 in 7 women, according to a report by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

Postpartum depression is a severe mental illness. It is dissimilar from the “baby blues,” a feeling of fatigue, sadness, and anxiety that affects up to eighty percent of women after delivering a baby. The baby blues generally go away within three to five days.

What is Postpartum Depression? 

PPD, or postpartum depression, is a form of clinical depression that begins after a baby’s birth. General symptoms include:

  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue or excessive crying 
  • difficulty bonding with your baby
  • insomnia and restlessness 
  • panic attacks and anxiety 
  • feeling angry, intensely overwhelmed, shameful or hopeless

No one knows precisely what causes PPD, but it’s possibly several different things like any other form of depression.

The postpartum period is exceptionally vulnerable. Most of the common causes of clinical depression, such as extreme stress, biological changes, and significant life changes, all happen at a time [1].

For instance, the following may occur after giving birth:

  • you don’t get as much sleep
  • your body is coping with significant hormone fluctuations
  • you’re recovering from the physical event of giving birth, which may have included medical interventions or surgery
  • you have new and challenging responsibilities
  • you may be disappointed with how your labor and delivery went
  • you can feel isolated, lonely, and confused

[Also Read: Postpartum Aches and Pains You Should Know]

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Mild low mood after childbirth is prevalent and typically resolves after 1 or 2 weeks. This is generally an adequate time for new parents to develop a routine with their infant, get comfortable at home, and return to normal for women’s hormone levels.

However, postpartum depression lasts for prolonged periods and generally begins later.

Postpartum depression will begin 1 to 3 weeks after delivery for many new mothers, and it will be more prominent if baby blues symptoms do not resolve or worsen. However, bouts of postpartum depression can begin as late as 12 months after childbirth.

Without treatment, postpartum depression can become a chronic depression or worsen, leading to postpartum psychosis. If symptoms of anxiety, depression, or both do not get better after 2 weeks, see a doctor for a diagnosis.

Typical timelines for postpartum depression include:

  • 1 to 6 months: Most symptoms develop during this time, with three months being the average timeframe.
  • 6 months to 1 year: Although it is rare, women may not develop symptoms for 12 months after childbirth. Delayed symptoms may make it tougher for women to accept that they are experiencing a treatable condition and may be less likely to seek treatment.
  • 1 to 4 years: These very long-term symptoms may be present after childbirth, but they may not worsen for years after the child is born.

Postpartum depression progresses differently for every new parent, but the typical progression begins with mild depression symptoms that worsen over several months. Exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, and mood swings, including anger or fear, are the most common symptoms that get worse.

[Also Read: How can Pregnant Women Be Safer]

Risk Factors

It is essential to know that neither the postpartum depression nor baby blues are due to anything that the woman has done. It is a general issue that many women experience, which does not mean that they are not good mothers.

Some factors do appear to aggravate the risk of postpartum depression.

They include having:

  • depression during or before pregnancy
  • history of depression or bipolar disorder 
  • a family member with a diagnosis of mental illness or depression 
  • experienced a stressful life event during the time of pregnancy, such as a bereavement, domestic violence, illness, or a job loss
  • a lack of support from loved ones or a partner 
  • medical complications during the delivery
  • a child with a health condition or preterm birth 
  • mixed feelings about the pregnancy
  • an alcohol or drug use disorder
  • Risk factors for long term depression
  • Scientists have also identified some risk factors for long term postpartum depression, observing that it is often a perpetuation of preexisting depression, rather than a new set of symptoms that begins at delivery.

Other factors that are believed to trigger a role include:

  • stress
  • a poor relationship with a partner
  • a history of sexual abuse
  • Some clinical trials suggested that depression was more likely to affect young women from a minority background or on a low income. Still, the data were less consistent with these findings.

Poor health in the child did not appear to increase the vulnerability of long term postpartum depression.

The experts urged physicians to be ready to spot the signs that postpartum depression is becoming chronic and consider the wider factors that can lead to depression.

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They also called for further research on the causes of postpartum depression and its likely duration.

[Also Read: How to Manage Anxiety During Pregnancy]

Treatment

Anyone who has apprehensions about how they feel after giving birth should see a physician, who will offer effective treatment. The treatment options can include:

1. Medication

A physician may prescribe an antidepressant, such as an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). They will work with the person to establish a proper dosage. Once they do this, the woman may continue to use the medication for six to twelve months. The physician will also discuss how medication can influence breastfeeding.

2. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation

This treatment makes use of magnetic waves to activate and stimulate nerve cells. It will not interfere with breastfeeding and is noninvasive. Physicians usually give this treatment five times a week for 4–6 weeks.

3. Counseling

Attending cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) sessions may also help, mostly, if a woman does this along with other treatments. A person can also take some steps at home that can help bring relief.

These include:

  • asking others to assist with tasks, if possible
  • getting as much rest as possible
  • spending time with friends and other family members
  • resisting the temptation to try to do everything perfectly
  • joining a local support group
  • sharing their feelings with others
  • getting some exercise, for instance, walking outside with the baby in a stroller

It is also a smart idea to avoid making significant life changes around this time, as they can add to the stress.

Bottom Line

Postpartum depression affects most women after giving birth. Without treatment, it can persist for weeks, months, or even years. However, treatment can help ease symptoms and enhance the quality of life.

Anyone who has apprehensions about their feelings should speak to a doctor or healthcare professional. A loyal family member or friend can often assist in getting help if the woman does not feel that she can do this herself.

Seeking treatment for postpartum depression can bring benefits for the baby, woman, and wider family in the long term.

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