Depression & Bipolar

Information about Postpartum Depression

Story Highlights

  • Hormonal changes trigger
  • Postpartum Depression 101
  • Postpartum Depression Symptoms
  • Developing increases
  • Postpartum and Dads

Depression after childbirth is called postpartum depression.

Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen (ESS-truh-jen) and progesterone (proh-JESS-tur-ohn) increase greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly return to normal. Researchers think the big change in hormone levels may lead to depression. This is much like the way smaller hormone changes can affect a woman’s moods before she gets her period.
Levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate how your body uses and stores energy from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms of depression. A simple blood test can tell if this condition is causing your symptoms. If so, your doctor can prescribe thyroid medicine. 

Postpartum Depression 101

For many people, the birth of a new baby is a joyous occasion. The birth of a baby is an amazing time that brings on a confusing mixture of powerful emotions from excitement and joy one minute to fear and anxiety the next.

Many new moms experience the postpartum baby blues, which lasts from a couple of days after delivery for up to two weeks. However, a more serious condition can develop which is longer lasting and features much more severe symptoms, and is known as postpartum depression.

If you are suffering from postpartum depression, recognizing the symptoms and getting prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms and enjoy your new baby.

Often, moms suffering from postpartum cannot see it in themselves, or may not reach out for help, this is why it is very important that partners, and family members or even friends remain vigilant and never ignore the signs of postpartum depression.


Recognizing Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is often labeled at baby blues when the symptoms first appear. However, the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression are more intense, last longer, and often interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks.

While the symptoms normally develop in the first few weeks of giving birth, they can take up to six months after birth to begin.

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include:

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Withdrawing from your family and friends
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Severe changes in appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Intense irritability
  • Feelings of being worthless
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Untreated, postpartum depression can last for months or years.

It is important to see your doctor if your feelings aren’t getting any better after two weeks, are getting worse, or are impairing your ability to care for yourself or your baby.

If at any time you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, you need to get help immediately. Tell your partner or a loved one, or call 911 for immediate help.

What Causes Postpartum Depression

While there hasn’t been a single cause identified as being the cause of postpartum depression, the physical and emotional issues are thought to play a role in the development of postpartum depression.

Physical Changes – After a woman gives birth to a baby, there is an immediate drop in hormones, which is thought to contribute to postpartum depression.

Emotional Challenges – When you have a baby, you are often left feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived. This can lead to you feeling anxious, and feel as though you have lost control of your life. These feelings can contribute to postpartum depression.

Even if you didn’t experience postpartum depression after the birth of your first child, you could still experience it after the birth of other children.

The risk of developing postpartum depression increases when:

  • You have a history of depression
  • Your baby has health problems
  • You experience other stressful life events
  • You have a weak support system
  • Your pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted
  • Overwhelm and isolation in taking care of a new baby can also cause undue stress to the new mother.

Postpartum Depression And Dads

While many people believe that postpartum depression is something that only affects new moms, it can also affect dads, even if their partner is unaffected. In dad’s postpartum depression is called Paternal Postnatal Depression and can affect up to one in every four new dads.

Depression, anxiety and other mood problems can occur at any point in the first year of your baby’s life. It is just as important for dad’s to get help as it is for moms.

Suffering from postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or weakness. There is no need to suffer alone and admitting that you need help doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent, in fact, reaching out for help shows that you are a good parent and want the best for you and your family.

Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable with professional help.

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