Postpartum Depression Signs
One in seven women will experience postpartum depression after giving birth. While it’s common for women to feel anxious after having a baby, the “baby blues” is not a serious psychological disorder. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, can significantly impair a new mother’s daily functioning, and make it difficult for her to bond with her newborn.
Although postpartum depression is a common and serious illness, it is not always easily recognizable, and can be mistaken for harmless “baby blues.” It’s important for expectant mothers, their families, and healthcare providers to understand the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and get the treatment they need.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a clinical depressive disorder that can appear either before birth, directly after giving birth, or for up to one year after giving birth. Although depression and its subsets like postpartum depression are common illnesses, the causes of these disorders are not entirely understood. It’s is believed that postpartum depression is a combination of severe hormonal fluctuations that are present during and after pregnancy, a woman’s inherent temperament, and environmental stressors that can trigger and exacerbate the condition.
Who is most at risk of developing postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can strike any new mother. However, certain factors can increase the chances of someone contracting the disorder.
- Women who have a history of clinical depression.
- Women who do not have support to care for a baby.
- If a woman had an emergency c-section, an induction, or an otherwise traumatic experience while giving birth.
- Women who were unsure of having a baby or the father of the child is not present.
- Women who experience significant stressors around the time of giving birth, such as unemployment, the death of a loved one, or divorce.
- Having a baby with special needs.
- Being a first-time mother, a very young mother, or an older mother.
- Having a baby that is high-needs with unpredictable hunger or sleep needs.
During pregnancy, the hormones progesterone, and estrogen are sustained at very high levels. When women are not pregnant, these hormones gradually fluctuate at different times of the menstrual cycle. Once a woman gives birth, these hormones start to fall back to baseline levels. It is this leveling off of hormones that can trigger postpartum depression. If a woman experiences an outside stressor around the time of giving birth, such as the death of a loved one, these free-falling hormones can make her more vulnerable to experiencing depression symptoms.
What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression?
Although postpartum depression can happen right before birth, and for a year after giving birth, postpartum depression symptoms are the most likely to manifest at around three weeks after having a baby.
- Being exhausted, but unable to sleep due to racing thoughts or worry about the baby.
- Excessive guilt or shame about not being a good enough mother.
- Feeling inadequate at caring for the baby.
- Not being able to eat, or overeating.
- Not feeling motivated to engage in self-care routines, such as showering, even if the baby is asleep, or with a caregiver.
- Being afraid of being alone with the baby.
- Feeling “trapped.”
- Experiencing severe mood swings and irritability.
- Feeling disinterested in the baby and loved ones.
- Thinking of harming themselves or the baby (postpartum psychosis).
If these symptoms last for at least two weeks, it is most likely a case of postpartum depression. A minority of women will experience a more severe form of the disease, called postpartum psychosis. If a woman is thinking about harming herself or the baby, she needs immediate medical attention.
Can postpartum depression be mistaken for another clinical disorder?
Postpartum depression can be easily mistaken for the “baby blues.” The baby blues are a pretty typical response to childbirth. They include fatigue, worry about how to care for a newborn, mood swings, and anxiety. Many women who are struggling with postpartum may attribute their feelings to the baby blues. But the most significant difference between the baby blues and postpartum is that postpartum interferes with the new mother’s ability to bond with her newborn, and care for herself and the infant.
In some cases, new mothers may mask or hide symptoms of postpartum depression because they feel stigmatized or guilty for feeling that way after giving birth. But postpartum depression is not a weakness or a character flaw. It is a severe medical condition that is caused by wildly fluctuating hormones after giving birth.
While environmental factors can contribute to the risk of developing postpartum depression, contracting the disorder is not something that a new mom can control. Most women find the transition to motherhood stressful and challenging, especially during the first few weeks after giving birth. It’s crucial that new moms have a strong support system in place and adequate medical care to help them through the transition.
What can be done to alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression?
90% of women who seek treatment for postpartum depression see a reduction in symptoms. However, medications may not be safe for pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding, and some women with postpartum may not respond favorably to antidepressants. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can help these women.
TMS is noninvasive and does not require a woman to take medication or anesthesia during treatment. It is safe for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding. TMS uses a magnetic coil placed over some regions of the head, where magnetic pulses are applied to stimulate areas of the brain known to play a role in depression.
If you or someone you care about is suffering from postpartum depression symptoms, it’s crucial to seek treatment for the disorder. Untreated postpartum depression can put women at risk of suffering from severe depressive episodes as her baby grows. Please talk to the technicians at Pulse TMS today about deep brain stimulation techniques in the treatment of postpartum depression.