Bringing a baby into this world and becoming a parent is one of life’s most exciting events. This monumental change can trigger a whole range of powerful emotions, from joy and delight to fear and anxiety, and possibly even new baby blues.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Many new moms experience new baby blues, including feelings of sadness, mood swings, irritability, crying, appetite issues, trouble sleeping, feeling overwhelmed, depression and anxiety. It’s quite common to feel this way considering the change in mind, body and lifestyle, especially the new responsibility of taking care of a newborn. Baby blues typically begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last up to two weeks.
If these feelings persist or increase in intensity over time, it may not be baby blues – it may actually be postpartum depression, which is a more serious and longer-lasting depression that can start one to three weeks after delivery. In some cases, it can become an issue as long as a year after your baby arrives.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is sometimes mistaken for the baby blues at first, but the signs and symptoms of this type of depression are much more intense and last longer, even interfering with your ability to care for your new baby and take care of other daily tasks. Symptoms typically develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but they can begin later, even up to six months after the birth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Loss of appetite or eating more than usual
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Inability to sleep or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness or inadequacy
- Reduced ability to concentrate, think clearly or make decisions
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
Whether you’ve just given birth to your first child or you’re bringing home a little brother or sister, birth and bringing a new life into the world creates change.
First, there are hormones. After giving birth, your hormone levels decrease immediately and continue to decrease for several hours. The varying hormone levels are one possible cause of postpartum depression.
The physical stress your body goes through can also trigger depression – both traditional childbirth and cesarean sections can leave a new mother feeling tired and physically drained. And it can take weeks for the body to recover.
And suddenly having a newborn to take care of can also trigger postpartum depression, particularly when combined with hormonal changes and recovery from birth. You’re taking care of an infant who needs to eat and have its diaper changed often, who sleeps in small increments and can only communicate with you through crying. It isn’t easy.
How to Deal with Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression may be difficult to talk about – new moms may fear the stigma of mental illness and feel guilt for the emotions they’re experiencing. However postpartum depression isn’t a flaw or weakness, but rather a complication of giving birth.
Feeling depressed or moody for a few days after giving birth is normal. But if you’re symptoms aren’t going away, it’s critically important to get help. If you’re having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, don’t delay in seeking treatment.
Your doctor will be able to work with you to create the best treatment plan for you, which can lead your depression to go away within a few months. Treatment for postpartum depression typically includes counseling and medication. Medications, which may include antidepressants, will help to balance your moods. And counseling will give you the opportunity to talk through your feelings and even learn some coping mechanisms.
Treatment can help you manage your symptoms, but it can also help you feel better and enjoy your new baby.
Crozer Health employs Delaware County’s largest staff of board-certified and board-eligible psychiatrists. We offer a comprehensive range of services in the areas of mental health and substance abuse, including emergency care, outpatient counseling and inpatient psychiatric treatment.