Postpartum Depression in New Mom's After Pregnancy: Overview & Diagnosis

Motherhood brings along an unmatched joy and, at times, cannot be described in words. The happiness of holding your baby in your arms for the first time, the excitement of raising a human! But sometimes, along with this happiness, a feeling of fear, anxiety or depression can also take over. 

According to experts, 70% of new mothers go through baby blues, but one in seven women experience postpartum depression. 

What Is Postpartum Depression? 

After delivering a baby, new mothers often feel an overwhelming sense of restlessness, anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, loneliness, worthlessness, and sadness after having a baby. One minute they feel happy, and the next minute they are overwhelmed and start to cry. Feeling like this for a week to 10 days is not alarming. There is no specific postpartum depression definition, but sometimes, these symptoms do not go away on their own and take the form of a mental illness that requires medical help; it is Postpartum Depression (PPD)

Postpartum Depression Symptoms

The typical symptoms of PPD include experiencing some or all of the following(1

  • ◾ Loss of appetite
  • ◾ Feeling detached or no attachment with the baby
  • ◾ Feeling restless
  • ◾ Feeling anxious, irritable or stressed all the time
  • ◾ Low energy and low motivation
  • ◾ Unexpected weight gain or loss
  • ◾ Frequent crying 
  • ◾ Sleeping less or sleeping a lot
  • ◾ Constant feeling of guilt or worthlessness

In some sporadic cases, some women with severe postpartum depression might also experience symptoms such as thoughts of hurting themselves or the baby or hearing voices and seeing people not present out of paranoia. 

How To Diagnose Postpartum Depression

Any layman is not the right person to diagnose or recommend alternate therapy for treating depression. Instead, a new mother should get a proper diagnosis from a doctor or a practicing psychologist for postpartum depression. So, if a new mother you know is experiencing the symptoms mentioned above, talk to a doctor or a psychologist. Timely diagnosis can help in faster recovery. 

Postpartum Depression Causes

There is no specific or defined cause of postpartum depression. However, it can be caused by a combination of hormonal changes that the body goes through after childbirth, lack of sleep and increased stress after delivery. People with a previous history of depression are also more prone to experience postpartum depression. People in stressful or difficult marriages or family situations and new moms who have significantly fewer people to talk to can also experience PPD. 

Risks Associated with Postpartum Depression

If diagnosed and treated in time, there are no significant risks associated with postpartum depression. But in cases where PPD is severe, there are certain risks of the mother not taking care of her child, harming oneself or others, having massive weight loss or gain due to eating disorders associated with depression etc. 

Postpartum Depression Treatment

Treating PPD is similar to treating any other form of depression. You would need to see a counsellor or a psychologist to treat PPD. Treatment differs from person to person and depends on many factors and situations. 

In some cases, patients are prescribed relaxants or anti-depressants. Make sure you let your doctor know if you are breastfeeding and ensure that these anti-depressants are safe for your baby too. 

These days, many new parent support groups such as Parent Tribe are also a great way to seek additional support over and above the medical help. In addition, talking to other parents who are at the same life and parenting stage can be reassuring and helpful. 

When To Seek Doctor's Help

If you have been diagnosed with depression and are undergoing counselling or therapy, you will need to visit your psychologist or doctor as often as they have prescribed you to. Apart from this, if you feel overwhelmed or concerned, there is no shame or embarrassment in having an early check-in with them. You should, without any delay, see your doctor again if the symptoms of postpartum depression are – 

  • ◾ Are getting worse
  • ◾ Making it difficult for you to do day to day tasks
  • ◾ Making it difficult for you to take care of your baby
  • ◾ Making you have thoughts of harming yourself or others

Do Fathers Also Experience Postpartum Depression?

An estimated 4% of new fathers also experience symptoms of postpartum depression. In addition, the financial anxiety of raising a child, the disrupted sleep and food cycles and the stress of seeing their partner in pain and depression can affect the fathers too. Although it has nothing to do with hormones or childbirth medically, fathers also experience postpartum of post-childbirth anxiety & depression in the case of fathers. 

Questions People Frequently Ask About Postpartum Depression

Q1 – What can I do as a family member of a new mother suffering from PPD?

Offer help and lend a listening ear. Sometimes new mothers are overwhelmed. So, please take a few tasks off their shoulders. Help them with tasks like burping the baby and changing the newborn's cloth diapers  massaging or bathing the baby. This can give the new mother much-needed rest. Also, if she feels emotional or overwhelmed, talk to her and offer her a non-judgmental listening ear. 

Q2 – Will I have to take anti-depressants if I have PPD? 

Not necessarily. It depends on the case, situation and condition. Your doctor will know best if or not to prescribe anti-depressants. But, no, not all depression patients have to take anti-depressants necessarily. 

Q3 – I went through depression during my first pregnancy. Am I at risk of PPD in my second pregnancy as well? 

The chances of someone having experienced depression in the past having it again postpartum are present. Although, you won't necessarily go through it again. You can speak to your doctor in advance and tell them about your history of depression so that all necessary precautions, support and treatments can be planned if needed. 

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