Symptoms. Causes. What to do. When to seek help.
Childbirth comes with a lot of emotions. The days and weeks after childbirth can be so overwhelming, that they trigger a lot of emotions. Feelings of sadness, joy, to fear and anxiety can ultimately result in depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is the type of depression that affects not only mothers but in rare cases fathers also. It happens right after childbirth for some mothers and can last for weeks or months if not treated early enough.
It is usually a tiring time for those involved and it is very important for new mothers and those close to them to understand the symptoms of postpartum depression and to reach out for professional help if all fails.
It is not known why PPD occurs. It is a psychological disorder that can be effectively treated with the help of support groups, counseling, and sometimes medication. Anyone with symptoms should see their doctor immediately.
The symptoms associated with postpartum depression are similar to what happens after childbirth. They include: frequent mood changes, low energy, feelings of worthlessness, loss of appetite, thoughts of death or suicide, difficulty in sleeping, decreased libido, irritability, crying, reduced concentration, withdrawing from family and friends, fears that you’re not a good mother, thoughts of harming your baby, and so on.
Postpartum depression in new fathers
The same symptoms exhibited by mothers experiencing postpartum depression can be be visible in fathers as well. Some new fathers are known to experience this. It is sometimes called paternal postpartum depression and happens majorly in young fathers who have a history of depression or are struggling financially. Postpartum depression in fathers can have the same negative effect on partner relationships and child development as postpartum depression in mothers can.
There’s no single known cause of postpartum depression. Some experts claim the mood changes associated with postpartum depression are as a result of hormonal shifts that happen with pregnancy and childbirth. Levels of estrogen and progesterone that increased during pregnancy drop suddenly after delivery, and this can affect mood. These hormones return to their pre-pregnancy levels within a week or so. As they do, mild postpartum depression usually gets better without medical treatment.
Others say emotional changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth also contribute to postpartum depression. They go on to say when one is sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may then become anxious about little things and find it hard handling minor problems. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.
Difficulties with breast-feeding might also be linked to PPD. New mothers who experience breast-feeding difficulties in the 2 weeks following the birth of the infant have a higher risk of PPD 2 months later.
What to Do
- The most important step on the road to treating and recovering from PPD is to acknowledge the problem.
- Be optimistic. Try to think of small things you’re grateful for.
- Read something uplifting. Depression may make it difficult to concentrate, so choose something light and positive that can be read a bit at a time.
- Get a lot rest, because being exhausted and sleep deprived can make feelings of sadness and depression worse.
- Ask and accept help when you need, especially in the first days and weeks after delivery. Let family and friends help with errands, cleaning, cooking, and household chores.
- Eat nutritious food to get your energy level back up.
- Talk to family and friends about how you’re feeling. Do not keep things bottled up inside. Talking to people close to you, or to other new mothers, can help you feel supported and remind you that you’re not alone. You don’t have to stifle the tears if you feel the need to cry a bit — but try not to dwell on sad thoughts.
When to seek help
- Talk to a healthcare professional if feelings of sadness or depression are very strong and last throughout the day. Also if thoughts of harming yourself or your baby comes to mind.
- When she can’t cope with everyday situations.
- When she’s unable to function normally.