What are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Moms and dads caring for their newborn experience a rollercoaster of emotions, from extreme joy and gratitude, to exhaustion and frustration. Having a new baby is a special experience, but for many people, it’s far from easy. The sleepless nights and daily challenges can add up over time and trigger postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a type of mental health disorder that commonly affects new moms. It’s a form of depression that can make it difficult for a woman to care for her baby, herself, or carry out everyday activities. According to the CDC, roughly 1 in 9 women will experience the symptoms of postpartum depression.
Although less common, it’s also possible for new dads to develop paternal postpartum depression. Data shows that around 1 in 10 men experience postpartum depression after the birth of their child. One study determined that if their wife is depressed, the man is twice as likely to develop postpartum depression. Research also shows that paternal postpartum depression usually peaks within three to six months after birth.
Women experience postpartum depression in varying degrees of severity. For instance, many women have symptoms of “the baby blues,” which are the immediate feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and uncertainty that can happen after a baby is born. Data suggests that between 70 – 80% of all new mothers experience some negative feelings after birth. However, symptoms of the baby blues usually only last for a few minutes at a time, and they only linger for a few weeks after birth.
However, moderate to severe cases of postpartum depression last for a longer period of time—anywhere from a few months to a year after giving birth. The symptoms are much more debilitating and can make it difficult for women to perform basic tasks.
Do you have postpartum depression?
All women and men with a new baby should be aware of the common signs of postpartum depression. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if think you might be suffering from postpartum depression:
- Have you had changes in your sleeping habits (too little or too much sleep)?
- Have you had changes in your eating habits (overeating or undereating)?
- Do you snap at your partner or child for no reason?
- Do you think everyone else is a better mother than you are?
- Do you cry for no reason at all?
- Do you no longer enjoy the things you used to like?
- Do you worry that you will accidentally hurt your baby?
- Do you struggle to bond with your baby?
- Are you afraid of leaving your house or being alone?
Keep in mind that some women develop postpartum depression during their pregnancy, which can make it difficult for them to stay healthy and maintain a calm environment for their baby. If you suspect you have postpartum depression, you should seek help from a doctor or mental health professional who can formally diagnose you and recommend treatment.
What are the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression?
The symptoms of postpartum depression can be very serious, so it’s important to differentiate them from the common symptoms of the baby blues. For instance, you might be experiencing the baby blues if you:
- Have mood swings that range from happy to sad
- Feel like you aren’t able to care for yourself because you’re always tired
- Are irritable, anxious and overwhelmed
Remember that symptoms of the baby blues don’t usually interfere with a woman’s ability to perform regular tasks. For instance, you might be feeling anxious and exhausted, but it doesn’t stop you from taking your baby for a walk outside or running errands. It might be harder to muster up the energy, but you can still do everyday activities.
On the other hand, the symptoms of postpartum depression are much harder to deal with on a daily basis. Unlike the baby blues, moderate to severe postpartum depression interferes with a woman’s everyday life. You might argue with your partner, avoid social situations, and struggle to bond with your baby. Some of the signs of postpartum depression include:
- Feeling extremely restless, tired and irritable
- Getting sad or crying excessively
- Having virtually no energy
- Getting headaches, heart palpitations or hyperventilating
- Overeating or not being hungry at all
- Being overly worried about your baby
- Not having an interest in your baby
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Being afraid of hurting your baby or yourself
When left untreated, postpartum depression can lead to postpartum psychosis, which is the most severe form of postpartum psychiatric illness. Only about 1 in 1,000 women experience postpartum psychosis after birth, and most women develop symptoms within the first few days after delivery. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are similar to bipolar disorder, such as:
- Extreme mood swings
- Delusional belief
- Disorganized Thoughts
Treatment for postpartum depression
Postpartum depression is highly treatable in most women and men. The treatment protocol is very similar to other forms of depression, and it usually includes a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and self-care.
A mental health professional will talk to you about your concerns and identify the root causes of the disorder. They can also help you find ways to cope with your emotions, solve problems, and find healthier ways to deal with difficult situations. If postpartum depression is putting a strain on your relationships, family therapy can also be beneficial.
Depending on the severity of your postpartum depression, the therapist might also prescribe an antidepressant to help you manage your symptoms. Medication can make you feel more at ease, and allow you to focus on providing the best care for your baby. Most antidepressants can be taken while you’re breastfeeding with little risk of side effects for the baby.
However, some women and men suffer from postpartum depression that does not respond well to traditional forms of treatment. If this is the case, a therapist might recommend trying Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy.
TMS usually electromagnetic waves to stimulate areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating mood. After six weeks of TMS treatment, many people report that the majority of their depressive symptoms have disappeared completely.
Women dealing with postpartum depression should consult their doctor before starting TMS treatment. However, TMS is safe for most women who are pregnant and for new mothers who are breastfeeding. Contact us today to learn more about TMS therapy at Pulse.