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What is Postpartum Depression?

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Postpartum depression is a persistent low mood that arises due to a complicated mix of physical, mental, and behavioral changes in mothers immediately after they give birth. It is also linked to the social and psychological changes that come with giving birth. About 1 in 10 new mothers experience postpartum depression.

What are the Causes of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression has no single cause, but rather a combination of physical and mental factors may play a role. The physical factors include a significant drop in the sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in the body after childbirth. Other hormones generated by the thyroid gland may also drop abruptly, leaving you feeling weary, sluggish, and sad. The emotional factors include worrying about the care of your newborn, feeling unattractive, having identity issues, or a sense of losing control of your life.

Some of the risk factors of postpartum depression include:

  • Past trauma
  • Family history of depression or bipolar disorder
  • Experience of recent stressful events such as illness or job loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Having twins, triplets, or other multiple births
  • Having breastfeeding difficulties
  • Feeling the pressure to be a “perfect” parent
  • Baby having health problems or other special needs
  • Lack of family support
  • Experiencing preterm birth
  • Having a baby who is underweight at birth
  • Having financial problems
  • Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

The signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Feeling very depressed or having severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Experiencing difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from your friends and relatives
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and enjoyment in previously enjoyable activities
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Feelings of inadequacy, shame, remorse, or worthlessness
  • Inability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby
  • Suicidal thoughts

Diagnosis of Postpartum Depression

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms. You may be asked to complete a questionnaire as part of your depression screening. Certain blood tests may be ordered to detect if an underactive thyroid or other physical condition is causing your signs and symptoms.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Psychotherapy, medicine, or a combination of the two is frequently used to manage postpartum depression.

  • Psychotherapy: It may be beneficial to speak with a psychiatrist, psychologist, or Other Counseling/Therapy experts about your worries. A mental health professional can help you learn to better cope with your feelings, make realistic goals, and respond to situations in a constructive way. Family or relationship counseling may also be beneficial.
  • Medications: Antidepressants can help to manage symptoms and improve mood. However, it is possible that they will take 6–8 weeks to work. All medications can cause side effects, so it is crucial to work with a doctor to develop a treatment plan that works.

Prevention of Postpartum Depression

Efforts can be made both during and after pregnancy to help manage postpartum depression. The following are some steps to prevent postpartum depression:

  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan.
  • Get at least 7–8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Maintain contact with your family and friends rather than isolate yourself.
  • Enlist the assistance of others to overcome practical and emotional difficulties to reduce stress after delivery.
  • Discuss feelings and worries with family and friends.

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