After giving birth, up to 80% of the new moms suffer from a slight form of sadness, often referred to as baby blues. Another 10 to 15% undergo a real postpartum depression. But what causes these conditions? And how to fight them?
If you’ve just given birth but don’t feel as happy as you should feel, this guide can help you identify and fight baby blues and postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Congratulations, you’re finally a mom. You’ve overcome a difficult and painful birth, but you can finally hold your little bundle of joy. Your mood is skyrocketing and you can’t wait to get home to start caring for your child.
Or maybe not! Perhaps you just feel sad, anxious, frustrated, you can’t focus on your child and, in the end, you don’t even want to see him.
This is postpartum depression, but the condition can install even after several weeks after giving birth. You just stop feeling happy and exhaustion replaces your enthusiasm. Your baby’s cry doesn’t stimulate your feelings anymore and you’d just like to stay in bed and sleep instead of nursing your offspring.
Postpartum depression is a psychological disorder that affects new moms. It has various levels of severity, from mild and transitory to chronic. In some cases, postpartum depression can lead to psychosis, a condition that can determine the mom to hurt herself or the baby.
Symptoms And Signs Of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is one of the most misunderstood conditions and more often than not, women suffering from it do their best to hide the symptoms. This underestimation of the mom’s mental health leads to an underestimation of the condition itself, worsening the position of the mom.
This underestimation of the depression is caused by the social association of birth with a happy event. In fact, bringing a child into the world is a moment of joy, but only a few people stop to reflect on the physical and psychological changes that affect the mother.
For this reason, many people find it hard to understand why a new mom doesn’t feel like dealing with the baby after carrying her in the womb for nine months.
But no matter how hard you might try to hide the depression, there are some signs and symptoms that can help others identify the problem.
The most common symptom is sadness, which typically installs after a couple of days after giving birth. This condition is very common and usually lasts for about a week. In rare cases, it can develop into chronic depression.
Mood swings, anxiety, the tendency to cry out of nothing, irritability, and concentration difficulties are other signs of the condition.
The milder form of postpartum depression, aka the baby blues, is considered physiological. It affects up to 80% of the new moms and in the vast majority of cases, it passes on its own. During the baby blues period, support received from your partner or family can help you deal with the situation.
But if a couple of weeks have passed and you still feel sad and worried, it’s time to see a specialist. Some of the most common signs of chronic postpartum depression are insomnia, a change in appetite, loss of interest in the baby, and an overall feeling of incompetence.
Postpartum Depression – Suggestions For Self-Diagnosis
Performing a self-diagnosis of post-natal depression is not simple. Sometimes, the discomfort is obvious but in most cases the symptoms are more subtle, perhaps leading you to think that it’s just fatigue. Tiredness is normal in the first months and given that your sleep rhythm has been altered, feeling less motivated is also normal.
However, if you feel deeply sad or anxious, if you have an irritable mood, lack of self-confidence, concentration difficulties and trouble in connecting with the baby, you could suffer from postpartum depression.
If any of these feelings persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to make an appointment with a mental health counselor.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Postpartum Depression
Before talking about postpartum depression, there should be made a clear distinction between this condition and the baby blues. Baby blues are so frequent because they are linked to the sudden hormonal changes that occur right after delivery. The strong psycho-physical stress linked to labor and delivery are the main causes of baby blues.
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is often linked to the physical fatigue associated with caring for a newborn. Anxiety is often related to the increasing feeling of responsibility, while disagreements on how to raise or educate the child between you and your partner can also lead to postpartum depression.
Although the causes of postpartum depression are not entirely known, scientists have identified a few risk groups, as it follows:
- Women who have suffered from anxiety or depression during pregnancy;
- Women who have suffered from anxiety and depression before the pregnancy;
- A familiar history of psychiatric disorders (i.e. close family members who suffered from depression or other psychiatric disorders);
- Women who have experienced a stressful situation during the pregnancy, such as the loss of a beloved person, a separation, work-related issues, etc.;
- Women with a poor family or social support, with precarious social life and lack of social networks to contact in case of difficulty;
- Economic difficulty;
- Women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome;
- Women who suffer from thyroid disorders.
Some studies suggest that assisted reproduction techniques and traumatic or negative childbirth experiences can also contribute to the onset of postpartum depression.
What Impact Has Postpartum Depression On The Baby
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that has a negative impact on the baby. Scientists have identified two types of behaviors in moms affected by the condition.
Some women assume an attitude of hyper-control towards the child. They are always worried by something, from the weight of the baby to the growth rate, sleep, cleaning, and so on. These depressed moms will probably check the baby constantly to see if she’s breathing if she has a clean diaper or will try to overfeed the baby.
Other women, on the other hand, feel like they don’t want to deal with the baby anymore, or they feel so poor as moms that they completely neglect the baby. In this case, if the mom has some family members around her, she’ll simply delegate the care of the child to the others.
In both cases, the real needs of the baby are completely overlooked by the mom. This prevents mom and baby to form a bond, and is the condition is not cured, the baby could develop emotional disturbances, cognitive disorders, attention deficit, and physical conditions including an increased risk of allergies and sensitivity to infections.
In the rare cases in with the mom develops postpartum psychosis, mom can develop feelings of hater and aggressiveness towards the baby which can lead to infanticide.
How To Cure Postpartum Depression
If you realize that something is wrong a few weeks after delivery, of the symptoms of baby blues, don’t diminish with the time, the best thing to do is to disclose your feelings to someone. This could be your partner, your parents, your gynecologist, or even the pediatrician.
If you don’t want to disclose your feelings to anyone close to you, contact a psychologist or psychiatrist who will offer you an anonymous examination.
A specialist will also advise you what to do, depending on how severe your situation is. In some cases, even a simple talk can improve the situation, taking the burden off your shoulders. However, here are the three main levels of intervention in curing postpartum depression.
When the symptoms are very light, similar to the baby blues, you might not need specialist help as long as you’re sufficiently aware of the situation. Here are a few things that can lighten things up and improve your mood:
- Don’t hide your malaise. Talk about it with your partner, family, friends, a therapist, or whoever is there to listen to you.
- Share responsibilities but don’t avoid them. It’s perfectly fine to let your partner wake up in the middle of the night to soothe the infant. It’s not fine for you to avoid nursing or soothing your child for a whole week – at this point ask for help.
- Follow a healthy diet and get some physical activity. Yes, you just gave birth, but doing some sport is good for your mental health. Even going out for a stroll with other moms can help you improve your mood.
If talking about your feelings didn’t help, ask for professional help. There are different psychotherapies that help new moms overcome depression either alone or in association with a drug treatment. The cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, helps new moms deal with their new role.
Needless to say, depression, in general, is considered a “minor” disorder. That’s why drug therapy often looks suspicious. Because drug therapy can interfere with breastfeeding, it’s indicated to talk to your physician before assuming any drugs in this delicate phase.
However, some antidepressants and anxiolytics are safe to take even during breastfeeding.
How To Prevent Postpartum Depression
Since depression is a mental health disorder, there are strategies to prevent its onset, or at least to mitigate it.
Have a good rest as often as possible. In the first weeks after giving birth, the newborn baby will make a mess in your sleeping routine but you still have to try and get as much sleep as possible. For example, sleep when the baby’s sleeping, even if your house is not shining clean as it used to be before the baby.
As far as your domestic duties are involved, remember the child has a father who can help. If you’re a single mom, ask someone close to you to help you do the dishes or mop your floors.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends and relatives to limit their visits. They are not sleep deprived as you are and in the end, if you hurt someone’s feelings, it shouldn’t be your problem.
A proper diet is crucial for your well-being in the first months. Eat foods rich in fatty acids and omega 3, such as fish, nuts, and linseed oil. Avoid all exciters, such as alcohol and coffee. Limit black and green tea intake too.
A baby is not an excuse to close yourself indoors. Fresh air does good to both of you, so invest in a good stroller and go out for a walk. Try to socialize as much as possible. Make friends with other moms so you can share your thoughts and concerns.
Talking to other moms will also give you a feeling of belonging to a group. You’ll see you’re not the only one to have fears and doubts. You’ll be able to talk about your frustration too, especially if you don’t get the expected help from your partner.
Eye To Your Relationship
A frequent mistake new moms make, that affects both partners, is focusing on baby alone. However, your partner might feel neglected and excluded from most important moments. Instead of believing you know everything better, just involve your better half in growing the baby.
When the baby’s sleeping, you can still share a few intimate moments with your partner, even if this means cuddling on the couch or falling asleep in his arms.
Or organize a romantic dinner, even if romantic at this stage means ordering takeaway and eating in front of the TV.
Cure Your Social Relationships
Like I said above, don’t be afraid to tell people to limit their visits. But this doesn’t mean you have to cut them out of your life. Call your friends and have a chat when you feel like it. Ask your parents and the in-laws to help you with your chores. Attend night-outs with your partner when you’re confident enough to leave the baby with the grandparents and promote your social relations.
In this way, there will always be someone to talk to when baby blues or negative thoughts hit.
Postpartum depression is a real issue and should be treated like any other mental health issue. Awareness is the first step towards cure, and you’re not alone in this. Be confident and talk to someone about your feelings. In the end, it can save your and your baby’s life.