Postpartum Depression: More Than the Baby Blues

After giving birth, your body and mind go through many changes. You might feel like you don’t love or care for your baby. Many women experience feeling sad or “blue” three to five days after giving birth; feelings of sadness that occur past two weeks indicate there may be symptoms of depression. Women can experience the symptoms of postpartum depression one week to one year after giving birth.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a mental health disorder. A chemical reaction to hormonal changes can trigger behaviors that can harm your physical or psychological well-being. Depression or postpartum depression may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • A feeling of emptiness
  • A lack of interest in activities
  • A feeling of “blah”
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of connection to your baby
  • Anxiety
  • Despair
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Restlessness or the need to always be moving
  • Trouble staying focused, making a decision, or recalling places, people, or events
  • Trouble sleeping, falling asleep, waking up, or staying awake
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Undiagnosed aches, pains, or other health problems
  • An inability to bond with your baby
  • Unrelenting self-doubt regarding the ability to care for your baby
  • Suicidal ideations, thoughts of self-harm, or harming your baby

Causes of Postpartum Depression

Several factors contribute to postpartum depression. ACOG lists these as components to postpartum depression:

  • Hormone levels change. The levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease immensely in the hours after giving birth. The change in levels can cause depression as well as mood swings, irritability, or anger.
  • History of depression. The risk of postpartum depression increases if the woman has a history of depression. Women who had depression, have it, or are undergoing depression treatment should consult with their therapist.
  • Emotions. Emotions such as fear or anxiety are common for many women before or after they give birth. The uncertainty of having a baby, caring for a child, and the pressure to be a good mother are triggers for postpartum depression. Other factors for postpartum depression include an unwanted baby, a planned pregnancy – planned pregnancies can carry emotional responses such as stress or anxiety – or if the baby is sick. Babies born with health issues can cause a mother’s feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Fatigue. After giving birth, many women experience fatigue. They are recovering from birth, and that takes time. Some women can feel pressure to be alert and full of energy, but the body needs to heal after giving birth or having a caesarian section.
  • Environmental Factors. Environmental influences also play a part in how a woman feels after giving birth. The risk of postpartum depression increases if a woman doesn’t have a robust support system.

Having a baby is emotionally and physically exhausting. Your body goes through an intense period throughout pregnancy and birth. Physically your organs and muscles stretched and moved to accommodate the pregnancy, and giving birth also taxes your physical and mental stamina.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

The health of both the mother and the baby is at risk of postpartum depression goes untreated. There are ways to aid in decreasing or eliminating postpartum depression, such as:

  • Therapy– there are two types of treatment commonly used according to NIMH:
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT helps people with mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. The goal of CBT is to replace negative behaviors with positive coping mechanisms. The patient learns how to recognize, assess, and substitute harmful behaviors with behaviors that positively affect their minds, bodies, and souls. Individual or group therapy, which focuses on the needs of a patient, is recommended.
    • Interpersonal therapy (IPT) is a form of treatment that focuses on a person’s relationship with themselves and others. IPT believes that a person’s relationships are the foundation of mental health issues. The health of the relationships impacts how a person acts and reacts to their environment. Individuals receiving IPT will learn how to communicate their feelings and needs effectively to those around them. Another goal of IPT is to form positive support systems. They will also learn how to cope with events, situations, or unrealistic expectations that can influence their depression.
  • Medication– Most women are prescribed antidepressants for their postpartum depression.
  • Brain stimulation Therapy – There are a few forms of brain stimulation therapy. NIMH explains one type:
    • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) uses a magnet to activate the brain. rTMS can target a specific site in the brain.

After a child’s birth, many women experience a drop in certain hormones, leading to depression symptoms. The FDA has approved one medication, called brexanalone, specifically to treat severe postpartum depression. Administered in a hospital, this drug works to relieve depression by restoring the levels of these hormones.

Postpartum depression affects women up to a year after giving birth. The signs and symptoms are, at times, confused with the “baby blues,” but if they persist for more than two weeks, seeking help is essential to the health of the mother and baby. Therapy, along with other types of treatment, is a way to address postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression affects many women. Feeling depressed after giving birth is attributed to many factors. If the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression continue for more than two weeks seeking help from your obstetrician-gynecologist (Ob/Gyn) or a therapist is essential. A therapist will help identify your symptoms and discuss with you viable ways to treat your postpartum depression. Counseling, medication, or brain stimulation alleviate or eliminate the symptoms of postpartum depression. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by postpartum depression. Help is available if you need to talk with someone. If you have intense emotions or suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to search for assistance. Achieve Concierge provides therapy, medication including Brexanalone, and the brain stimulation therapy TMS. We can see you on an emergency basis if you have suicidal thoughts. We can also schedule an appointment within two days. If you have any questions, call (619) 393-5871.

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