You gave birth recently, you’re tired and irritable all the time, and you’re questioning if you’re even a good mom. Your family relationships have suffered, and your sleeping and eating habits have gotten worse. You may be experiencing the first signs of postpartum depression, which actually affects more than just moms.
POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION DEFINITION
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “having a baby is a very exciting, joyous, and often anxious time. But for women with peripartum (formerly postpartum) depression, it can become very distressing and difficult. Peripartum depression refers to depression occurring during pregnancy or after childbirth. The use of the term peripartum recognizes that depression associated with having a baby often begins during pregnancy.” Women experiencing postpartum depression may find relief through psychotherapy or medicine like ketamine.
Any new mom can have postpartum depression after childbirth. But risks of getting it can increase if:
- There’s a history of depression
- You suffer from bipolar disorder
- You experienced depression with another pregnancy
- There’s a family history of mood disorders, including depression
- The presence of stressors, like pregnancy complications, a serious illness, or job loss
- Health problems with your baby
- You had multiple births
- Lack of support
- Money problems
- The pregnancy was unwanted or unplanned
HOW TO PREVENT POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
While pregnant, your doctor can monitor your symptoms of depression and have you finish “a depression-screening questionnaire during your pregnancy and after delivery. Sometimes mild depression can be managed with support groups, counseling, or other therapies. In other cases, antidepressants may be recommended — even during pregnancy.”
After delivery, it’s not uncommon for a checkup to screen for symptoms of postpartum depression. Early discovery means earlier treatment, especially if you or a biological relative have depression.
NOT JUST FOR NEW MOMS
Postpartum depression can have unintended consequences for the father, siblings, and other extended family members, who may provide care to the mother and new baby. Postpartum depression can ripple, causing emotional stress for everyone in a new baby’s life. When a new mother has depression, the risk for the father may also rise. Siblings can be affected too, with symptoms like emotional and behavioral troubles, sleeping and eating problems, disproportionate crying levels, and problems with language development.
WHAT IS POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION?
It’s normal for many women to experience some level of sadness or even depression following childbirth, but it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
Symptoms are often treatable with medicine like ketamine; they may include:
- Constant sadness, anxiety, or “low” moods
- Feelings of guilt, helplessness, worthlessness, or hopelessness
- Lack of interest in favorite hobbies and activities
- Tiredness or low energy
- Feelings of restlessness or jumpiness
- Trouble focusing, remembering, or decision making
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble with your appetite or weight
- Body aches, headaches, cramps, or digestive trouble without a physical cause or don’t subside even with treatment
- Bonding issues with your new baby
- Constantly doubting your means to care for your new baby
- Thoughts about suicide, death, or harming yourself or your baby
What causes postpartum depression?
No one’s exactly sure what triggers postpartum depression, but some possibilities include:
- Genes, which store the blueprint for how your body develops and works. They’re passed between parents to children, so if a biological parent had depression, there’s a greater risk you’ll get it, too.
- Fluctuating hormone levels following pregnancy. Hormones are chemicals that help manage your mood and emotions. While pregnant, the levels of hormones like estrogen and progesterone are much higher, but within 24 hours after childbirth, these hormones quickly retreat to their normal levels. Such a rapid drop may trigger postpartum depression.
- You have low levels of thyroid hormones. The thyroid, a gland in your neck, helps your body utilize and collect energy from food.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Being depressed after childbirth isn’t anything to be ashamed of and doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. If you’re depressed, talk to your doctor. Diagnosis may involve:
- A physical exam, either during your initial checkup after childbirth, or as a separate appointment. Your doctor will look for any medical problem causing symptoms.
- A mental health evaluation, to assess your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. You’ll also be asked to provide any personal or family history of mental illness, and your clinician will use that to inform a diagnosis.
Afterward, your provider may treat postpartum depression with psychotherapy, antidepressants, or ketamine infusion.
Millions of women and their families experience sadness or depression after the birth of a child, but its symptoms can be successfully treated if recognized early enough. If you think you’re depressed, don’t wait – reach out. Contact us today to learn about innovative treatments that can help you find relief.