January 12, 2021
Giving birth to a child after nine months of pregnancy can be an overwhelming experience. Despite the happiness and excitement that comes with that bundle of joy, it’s not uncommon for some women to experience the “baby blues” soon after childbirth. For the vast majority of people who experience them, the blues fade after just a few days, and don’t typically require any kind of treatment.
For some women, however, the blues go on and on — or even arrive after a few months have passed. When the baby blues persist and reach a level of severity that impacts a mother’s ability to care for her child, she could be suffering from postpartum depression.
The impact of pregnancy and childbirth on women is significant. The body must adapt to supporting and growing another human being, and then manage the trauma of birth itself. After childbirth, the body changes again: hormones drop dramatically—specifically estrogen and progesterone. Hormones produced in the thyroid also decline significantly. These hormonal changes can leave a new mother feeling tired, sluggish, and depressed.
Any new parent will tell you those first few weeks of childcare are incredibly difficult already. When hormonal changes combine with sleep deprivation and anxiety about caring for a newborn, it’s easy to start feeling out of control.
Those who already have a history of depression (including previous episodes of postpartum depression), or are managing extra stress (including financial problems, lack of a support system, a child with health problems, or multiple births), may be even more at risk. But it’s important to note that any new mother can experience postpartum depression.
Mood swings, anxiety, sadness and irritability; trouble eating, sleeping, or concentrating; and generally feeling overwhelmed are all symptoms of the baby blues and are normal. However, If these symptoms become severe, or last for more than a week or two, it may indicate postpartum depression.
Because a newborn is so reliant on its mother, the symptoms of postpartum depression become particularly worrisome when they interfere with a mother's ability to care for her child. Those with postpartum depression can have a tough time bonding with their baby and withdraw from their support systems. They could become convinced they’re not a good mother, become fatigued, feel worthless, or, in severe cases, even consider harming the baby or themselves.
It’s important to seek treatment immediately if you or a new mother you know is experiencing postpartum depression. It’s common for depressed people to not recognize their own symptoms, so they may need the support of a loved one to encourage them to seek treatment.
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, make sure you accept help from your support system: family, friends, and other new moms. Take time for yourself and rest up!
Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy or counseling. A mental health professional will help a new mother find ways to cope with her feelings and situation. A doctor may recommend antidepressants, although mothers should consider the risks if they are breastfeeding.
Generally, postpartum depression’s symptoms improve with treatment. Like other types of depression, it can turn into chronic depression, so it’s important for mothers to continue treatments even after they begin to feel better.
Remember that postpartum depression isn’t a reflection on the mother or her fitness as a parent. While it’s much rarer, new fathers can also experience postpartum depression, with similar symptoms. In both cases, seeking the necessary treatment is an important step towards being able to enjoy the delight and rewards of being a new parent.
Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have, or suspect that you have, a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.