Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a type of depression which occurs in women soon after giving birth. Here’s a guide to PPD.

Birth of a baby can trigger many emotions in you, from joy and excitement to fear and nervousness. However, it can also result in something which you may least expect – depression.

You have probably heard of ‘baby blues’. It’s common for new moms to have these feelings, which usually fade in few weeks. According to a research around 80% mothers have these feelings and is completely normal.

Notably, PPD is not exclusive to mothers. Fathers can also experience it. As with mothers, symptoms in fathers can result in difficulty in taking care of their baby and themselves.

Often, depression is not recognized, as few pregnancy changes cause similar symptoms and occur at the same time. While some symptoms may sound the same, postpartum depression is very much different from baby blues.

Postpartum depression

Difference between baby blues and postpartum depression

You’re not the only mom to have these emotional ups and downs. About 80% women get “baby blues” – short-term dips in mood which occur after the baby is born.

Commonly, baby blue symptoms last only a few days to week or two and may include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Crying
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Decreased concentration

Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is a serious problem – one which shouldn’t be ignored. Symptoms of postpartum depression vary from one person to another and even day to day. Here are some common indicators:

  • Insomnia
  • Severe mood swings
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty bonding with baby
  • Excessive crying
  • Experience rage or anger
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Reduced interest in your favourite activities
  • Feel that you’re not a good mother
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or suicide
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Difficulty in remembering things

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition which occurs within the first week after delivery. It’s symptoms and signs are even more severe, which includes:

  • Obsessive thoughts about baby
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Attempts to harm your baby or yourself
  • Delusions and hallucinations

Postpartum psychosis needs immediate treatment as it may lead to life-threatening situations.

Causes of postpartum depression

postpartum depression-2

There is no single reason to why some women develop PPD while others don’t. It can be caused by multiple inter-related factors. Here are some of the them:

  • Stress: Taking care of a new born can take a toll on mothers, who are often sleep deprived. It is common for mothers to feel overwhelmed and worried about your capability to take care of your baby. All these changes in your lifestyle can be difficult for you to handle especially for a first-time mother.
  • Hormonal changes: Many hormonal changes occur in your body because of sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after delivery which may cause postpartum depression.
  • Emotional factors: If you’ve had mood disorder in the past or it runs in the family, you are more likely to develop PPD. Social isolation, lack of support, recent divorce, financial burden or health issues are some emotional stressors.

Natural remedies for postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a serious condition and needs medical treatment. One should not attempt to treat it without the help of a consultant or doctor.

Natural remedies like adequate amount of sleep and regular exercise along with your medical treatment can help improve symptoms. You can also indulge in mindful practices, massage and meditation to feel better. It is important to consume diet which is high in nutrition even after pregnancy.

When is the time to see a doctor?

If you see any symptoms of postpartum depression, schedule an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms suggest that you may have postpartum psychosis, you should immediately consult your doctor or consultant.

It is important to get immediate help if:

  • symptoms last more than two weeks
  • it is getting difficult for you to take care of the baby
  • difficult to manage household chores
  • symptoms are getting worse
  • getting thoughts of harming your baby or yourself

How is postpartum depression treated?

To rule out baby blues, your doctor may ask you to complete a depression-screening questionnaire. For severe PPD, there are several medications.

  • Antidepressant: helps to balance chemicals in the brain which affect mood. They an also help bonding with the baby but would take few weeks to be effective.
  • Tranquilizers: They are prescribed if you have postnatal psychosis.
  • Phycological therapies: In case of moderate PPD, phycological theories have proved to be successful. In such therapies, mothers are taught to manage relationship between her feelings and state of mind. The purpose is to alter such thought patterns to make mothers positive.
  • Hormone therapy: Estrogen replacement can help counter the sudden drop in estrogen levels, which can ease the symptoms of PPD in some women.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): This therapy is provided only when the symptoms are so severe that they stop responding to other treatments. ECT is applied under muscle relaxants and anesthetic.

Lifestyle changes

postpartum depression-lifestyle

Making adjustments to motherhood can be difficult as you learn to navigate this role. Taking care of yourself is one of the best things you can do to avoid or relieve PPD. Simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to help you make feel like yourself again.

  • Follow a healthy and well-balanced diet
  • Eat frequently so that blood sugar levels are maintained
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep
  • Give yourself quality time to relax and take a break from mom duties
  • Exercise regularly without overdoing it. Simple 30-minute walk everyday can work wonders
  • Skip household chores and make yourself and your baby as priority
  • Meditation can help you make feel calmer and energized
  • Don’t make any big life changes after pregnancy, it may cause unwanted stress.
  • Be open to talk to your partner, friends or family about your feelings or concerns

What if postpartum depression is left untreated?

If postpartum depression is not taken care of timely, it can last for months or even years. Along with mother’s health, it can affect the ability to connect mother with her baby which can cause behavioural issues or issues related to eating, sleeping in the baby as he grows.

Various researches have proved that depression after birth can affect the development of the baby and may cause delays in language, lower activity levels and distress.

Support and coping

PPD can have ripple effect and can cause emotional stress for baby’s father as well, who is already at the risk of depression.

Baby’s birth is already an exhausting and stressful period. And it becomes more difficult if depression occurs. But remember: Anyone can have depression and it’s not anyone’s fault. It can’t simply be fixed with positive attitude or silence. It is a medical illness and needs proper treatment. The soon you get help, the sooner you will be able to enjoy with your baby and partner.