Many new mothers experience Postpartum Depression (PPD) after giving birth. This occurs in 20% of women within the first year of having a baby. Maternal depression and other mental health problems including anxiety are definite illnesses, which are brought about by hormonal changes as well as psychological changes, changes in biology and the environment. Postpartum Depression and anxiety happen to be the most commonly occurring complications from childbirth.
The new mother is not to blame in these cases. Postpartum Depression affects new mothers of all races, ages, incomes, educational levels and whether married or not. There is help to make new moms feel better. Disorders affecting Maternal Mental Health can be effectively treated with counseling, self-help methods, social support and if necessary, medication.
The “Baby Blues” vs. Postpartum Depression
As many as 80% of new mothers will go through the “baby blues,” which includes feelings of confusion and sadness, accompanied by crying episodes. This usually occurs after giving birth, and sometimes during pregnancy, but usually goes away on its own without treatment within two weeks of having the baby. Major Postpartum Depression often goes unrecognized and this disorder is different than the standard “baby blues.”
As many as 20% of pregnant women or new mothers will have something more serious linked with their pregnancy or giving birth: symptoms of clinical depression. Signs that a new mother is experiencing clinical depression are as follows:
- Afraid of being alone
- Afraid of harming her baby or maybe herself
- Believes her family might be better off without her
- Difficulty focusing or making basic decisions
- Feeling overwhelmed sad, and hopeless
- Feelings of being “out of control”
- Feelings of guilt
- Irrationally angry or irritable
- Isolates herself from others
- Regrets having the baby
- Trouble dealing with everyday tasks
- Trouble sleeping
Causes of Postpartum Depression
The causes of Postpartum Depression are not clearly known, but it is thought that fluctuating hormones occurring after giving birth may be a contributing factor for PPD.
Factors causing a woman to be more likely to have Postpartum Depression
If she has suffered from mood disorders, major depression, or Postpartum Depression in the past. She may or have received treatment at the time for these conditions. Or she saw signs of these conditions, but didn’t seek treatment.
She has depression in her family history, meaning one or more members of her family have experienced depression.
She recently went through events in her life that were stressful. These stressful events might include:
- Baby was born with a health problem
- Death of a loved one
- Difficult pregnancy or difficult childbirth
- Financial problems
- Illness in the new mother or her loved one
- Little or no help from family members or friends
- Problems with their partner, which includes being abused
- Smoking, drinking or using drugs
- Trouble adjusting to being a mother
- Unwanted and/or unplanned pregnancy
When a new mom has negative feelings and thoughts about motherhood, this can also bring about PPD. It can often be overwhelming when a woman becomes a new mother. What often happens is the following:
- Feels less attractive after having the baby
- Feels she is no longer the woman she was before becoming a mom
- Has doubts about being a good mother
- Has no free time to take care of herself
- Isn’t getting enough sleep
- Puts a lot of pressure on herself trying to be the perfect mother
Some women who have major Postpartum Depression also have obsessive thoughts about hurting themselves or their babies and even thoughts of suicide. These new mothers are reluctant to discuss this unless someone asks them directly. If they go untreated, major postpartum depression can detrimentally affect the mother’s ability to bond with her baby. It could even result in the baby having delays in terms of their growth and development, plus an increase in the risk of the child developing anxiety or symptoms of depression later on in life. Treatment for postpartum depression can be effective. If you need help with postpartum depression, please contact us.