When you have a baby your whole life changes, so it’s not surprising you are likely to experience a wide range of emotions after the birth. As well as the initial joy you feel when your little one comes into the world, fear and sadness are also common emotions that many new parents experience. The problem comes when these emotions start to have a major impact on your life.
Postpartum (sometimes called postnatal) depression is something that isn’t often talked about, yet it’s surprisingly common. It is said to affect over 1 in 8 women and can occur anytime in the first year after the birth. What’s more surprising is that it can also affect men, though this is pretty rare.
Suffering from postpartum depression is terrifying for new mothers. Having a baby is supposed to be one of the best times of your life, so if you start feeling depressed, it can be extremely confusing. Many sufferers of postpartum depression feel like they must be terrible parents for feeling the way that they do. As the condition isn’t something women like to talk about or admit to, it often goes undiagnosed.
If you’re concerned you may be suffering with postpartum depression, it’s important to seek advice from a doctor as soon as possible. Below you’ll discover everything you need to know about the condition and the types of help available.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that occurs after giving birth. It can develop gradually over time, or can present itself immediately after the baby is born. A lot of the time it’s simply explained away as what is commonly referred to as “the baby blues”. This is something all new mother’s experience and includes symptoms such as mood swings and anxiety. However, the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues, is it lasts a lot longer.
The baby blues typically last up to two weeks after giving birth. So if your symptoms haven’t gone away after a couple of weeks, it’s most likely you are suffering with postpartum depression.
Causes And Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression
With postpartum depression, it’s pretty hard to pinpoint a specific cause. It is usually brought on by a variety of different factors. These can include:
- Hormonal changes
- The birth experience
- Other stressful problems such as money worries
- Feeling isolated
- Existing depression or mental health issues
All of the above can contribute towards postpartum depression. However, it is important to realise that everybody is different. What triggers postpartum depression in one person, may have no effect on another. Whatever the cause, seeking treatment is extremely important. It isn’t something that will simply go away on its own. Like any illness, postpartum depression requires treatment before it goes away.
So what are the symptoms you should be looking out for? Below you’ll discover the most common signs and symptoms, though remember these can start anywhere up to a year after the birth:
- Persistent low mood and sad feeling
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Isolating yourself from others
- Loss of interest in the world around you
- Inability to enjoy the things you usually do
- Frightening thoughts such as thinking about hurting your baby
The severity of the symptoms will vary and some can be difficult to associate with postpartum depression such as lack of energy. As a new mother, a lack of energy and trouble sleeping at night is something that naturally occurs. So you’ll need to look out for the other symptoms too in order to determine whether it is likely to be postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Or PTSD?
If you experienced a fairly traumatic birth, there is the chance the symptoms you are now experiencing relate to post traumatic stress disorder, rather than postpartum depression. The two conditions do have similar signs and symptoms, but they are different.
With post traumatic stress disorder, you’ll likely also experience symptoms such as flashbacks to the birth and increased anxiety. It is usually diagnosed after four weeks if the symptoms haven’t disappeared. Just like postpartum depression, if left untreated it can prove very difficult to live with and will affect all aspects of your life.
How Is Postpartum Depression Treated?
Treatment will very much depend upon the severity of the depression. First and foremost, you need to get a professional diagnosis. Even if the symptoms you are feeling were not listed above, you know your own body and mind so if you think something is wrong, it is worth having it checked out.
Most commonly, the condition is treated with a mixture of self-help techniques and psychological therapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven very successful in the treatment of postpartum depression. If that alone doesn’t help, or if the depression is severe, antidepressants may be prescribed.
In terms of self-help techniques, healthy eating is encouraged, exercising regularly and getting as much rest as possible will help. Of course, you can’t do this without support. One of the most important pieces of advice you will be given is to accept support from friends, family and professionals. This makes a tremendous amount of difference to your recovery.
There are even online support groups you can sign up to. Many new moms find it hard to talk about how they feel to the people close to them. Therefore, forums and support groups can prove invaluable, providing a place for them to feel safe opening up about their feelings. If you’re interested in joining a postpartum depression support group, PANDA is an excellent place to start. Not only do they have a fantastic list of local support groups, but they also have a lot of in-depth information regarding the condition. And despite being based in Australia, it can still be helpful for those living elsewhere as well.
Overall postpartum depression is a lot more common than you might think and there’s no shame in admitting you are suffering. There is a lot of support out there and compared to a decade ago, there is a lot more understanding and a lot less stigma involved. Never be afraid to seek the help that you need.