Postpartum Depression in Women

Postpartum Depression(PPD) is a state of depression which negatively affects the way you think and act. It is a mental illness starting during pregnancy and may persist up to a year after the child’s birth. It is likely to occur due to the new parent and is often difficult to differentiate from PPD and the usual stress. The sadness during or after the pregnancy can indicate PPD in women.

Difference Between Depression & Postpartum Depression

PPD happens during pregnancy resulting from hormonal changes, changing environment, genetic changes and changing emotions whereas depression is a normal condition of stress which may occur anytime. Women with a history of depression are at higher risks of getting postpartum depression.

Causes

  • Hormonal changes: At the time of pregnancy, the levels of progesterone and estrogen increases falling back to the normal after the delivery. This sudden change in the hormones leads to postpartum depression.
  • Emotional fatigue: Stress due to pregnancy, financial issues, lack of family support, worries about the relationship, excessive worry about the baby, social isolation or health problems in the infant is a result of this condition.
  • Congenital issues: Any history of mental illness in the family results in PPD and is often a risk-factor
  • Physical factors: Insufficient diet, drug abuse, lack of sleep, physical changes of pregnancy, difficulty in childbirth, and low thyroid hormone levels can also cause such situation in women.

Women who had a normal delivery and are healthy may also face postpartum depression.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Frustration
  • Fatigue
  • Thinking of suicide
  • Feeling sad for no reason
  • Feeling discouraged
  • Easily stressed
  • Violent behavior
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Increased anger and conflicts with others
  • Loss of interest in surroundings
  • Concerns about productivity at work
  • Complaining regular about physical problems
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Drinking alcohol frequently
  • Taking risks
  • Decreased motivation
  • Instant mood swings
  • Working constantly
  • Avoiding people around you
  • Panic attacks
  • Unexplained pain, illness or aches
  • Getting angry for no reason
  • Loss of libido
  • Lacking interest in the baby
  • Blurred vision

Postpartum Psychosis

It is a rare psychiatric condition which develops after the first week of delivery requiring immediate medical attention. It is a serious condition having more severe signs and symptoms than those of normal depression including:

  • Disturbances in the sleep
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Paranoia
  • Disorientation and confusion
  • Extreme obsession towards the baby

Difference Between Postpartum Depression & “Baby Blues”

  • PPD may last up to a year after the childbirth whereas the baby blues last for a shorter period.
  • The symptoms of PPD including anxiety, lack of interest, and sadness, are more severe than that of baby blues.
  • Baby blues appear after the child’s birth while PPD may emerge anytime during pregnancy lasting longer while affecting the mental and physical health of the mother.
  • PPD needs professional counseling to overcome the situation while the baby blues disappear after the ample rest and support from the family members.

Complications

Depression severely affects the mental health leading to complications which can last for life:

To mothers

This condition can last for months in mothers turning into chronic depressive disorders. Possible complications include:

  • Affect on physical health: Obesity, heart attack, and chronic illness are some of the physical effects which occur due to a disturbed lifestyle caused by mental trauma.
  • Affect on mental health: Trauma caused by depression leads to negative changes in the lifestyle of the mother.
  • Risk of suicide: Depression is a reason for almost two-thirds of all suicides due to regular irritability, withdrawal from the society, changes in the normal lifestyle and daily activities.

To Fathers

Anyone close to the mother and the child has an emotional attachment thus being at risk of postpartum depression. New fathers are at an increased risk of getting this condition irrespective of the mother’s state of mind.

To children

The children born to the mothers having postpartum depression are likely to have behavioral and emotional problems due to inattention from the mother. Such children are prone to problems like eating difficulties, crying for no reason, sleeping, etc. and can be a victim of ADHD (Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Factors Contributing to Depression

  • Personal, family history of depression
  • Financial problems
  • Lack of sleep
  • Stress in a relationship with family or wife
  • Worry being a parent
  • Lack of emotional or social support
  • Missing sex or attention from your partner
  • Feeling overwhelmed meeting your expectations in the office or home
  • Stressful birthing experience
  • Feeling excluded from the bond between mom and baby

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of this condition relies on certain traits. Those who suffer from depression or has any family history should get screened by the doctor right away who will determine the nature of postpartum baby blues. Blood tests can be a part of the diagnosis to find out if hormones and thyroid are contributing to symptoms of depression. Several psychological screening tests such as the beck depression inventory or the Hamilton rating scale can identify depression in a woman.

Ways to Treat Postpartum depression

Psychotherapy

It is one of the most effective treatments for PPD which involves sharing your problems with a psychiatrist. The mental health provider will suggest some efficient ways to come out of depression. Through therapies, one can find better ways to deal with mood swings, solve problems and get rid of depression.

Antidepressants

These are drugs used to treat major depressive disorders like PPD balancing your brain chemicals responsible for mood swings. However, these have side effects including loss of balance, drowsiness, confusion, memory loss, etc and may also affect the breast milk. Hence antidepressants need medical attention before consumption.

Counseling

Counseling is a part of psychotherapy which helps you feel better and is used to treat depression. Several therapies include:

  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy): The theory focuses on the way you think and behave treating anxiety, depression and other health-related issues. It is designed to provide practical solutions to improve the thought process as well as transforming negative thoughts into positive ones.
  • Interpersonal theory (IPT): This theory is a direct interaction between a therapist and the affected person and is proven to be one of the most valuable theories of PPD. The therapist focuses on four key problems including grief, transition in the role, interpersonal deficits, and interpersonal disputes.
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT): Under this, small amounts of electrical current is given to the brain to produce waves similar to that given at the time of seizures. It results in a chemical change in the brain reducing the depression. This theory implements when the depression is severe and do not respond to medications.

Medication

In case of severe depression, antidepressants, antipsychotic medicines, and mood stabilizers are used.

Home Remedies

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle
  • Share your feelings and avoid isolation
  • Pamper yourself
  • Set realistic expectations
  • Ask for support and help
  • Eat frequently to maintain blood sugar levels
  • Be organized
  • Get a proper 7-8 hours of sleep

How to Prevent Postnatal Depression?

With a controlled and healthy lifestyle, you can prevent postnatal depression. Follow these tips to prevent it:

During pregnancy:

  • Avoid things that lead to stress
  • Eat a healthy diet and follow a simple living
  • Mild depression is easily manageable through therapies and counseling
  • Use antidepressants to depressive situations

After childbirth:

  • Avoid overburdening yourself with too much of work
  • PPD checkup right after the birth of a baby

If Postpartum Depression Remains Untreated

It develops into chronic depression affecting the entire family as well as the mother-child bond if untreated. Severe depression leads to chronic diseases often suicides. PPD in the mother will negatively impact the development of the child. It is a serious disorder needing immediate treatment.

Facts about PPD

  • Includes anxiety and several mood disorders
  • Takes time to show up after the birth
  • PPD differs from baby blues
  • Excessive lack of sleep may lead to PPD
  • Many women suffering think themselves the only victim of it
  • Treatment of PPD includes helping the mother find support and cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Having this disorder does not make you a bad mother
  • PPD after one child and when planning for a second, consult the doctor about things that could prevent reoccurrence
  • Postpartum psychosis is rare
  • Approximately 10-15% of women suffer from PPD

References

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