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Postpartum depression

Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a very specific type of depression which can occur after childbirth (during first few months after childbirth). Postpartum Depression sometimes could be observed in women after miscarriage or stillbirth.

Pretty often women after childbirth can experience some depression symptoms (sadness, unhappiness, hopelessness, worthlessness, threats, etc.) which can range from brief attacks of “baby blues” to specific illness called “Postpartum Depression”. Some people confuse the PPD with so called “baby blues” which could appear in women during few weeks after having baby. “Baby blues” usually include some sleep disturbances, mood swings and crying (without visible reasons) and all symptoms disappear during few weeks after childbirth (without any treatment).

Postpartum Depression affects about 10%-20% of new mothers – symptoms could be severe and could last for months. PPD could start anytime after delivery (during first 6 months after childbirth). Postpartum depression interferes with women’s ability to care of newborn baby.

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression

The sever form of Postpartum Depression called “Postpartum Psychosis” which has typical symptoms including strange behavior, abnormal hearings, dangerous actions. Postpartum psychosis is a serious dangerous health condition. During postpartum psychosis women could have delusions, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts and sometimes they could consider killing babies or other young children. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate treatment.

Early treatment is recommended in cases of Postpartum Depression – the sooner you start treatment, the sooner you would feel healthy.

Some scientists suggested that mental illnesses or stress are not considered as predisposition factors but sometimes stress can turn “baby blues” to Postpartum Depression.

Postpartum depression risk factors

Several factors could be considered as risk factors for having Postpartum Depression:

  • Previous major depression or manic-depression;
  • Serious psychosocial stress;
  • Social problems (social pressure, inadequate social support from partner, friends or family members);
  • History of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD);
  • Sick child in the family.

Causes

There is no single cause for PPD but the most important are hormonal changes after childbirth – dramatic decrease of hormones (estrogens, progesterone, cortisol) during 48 hours after delivery. It was discovered that women with Postpartum Depression are very sensitive to mentioned hormonal changes.

Besides hormonal changes, most medical professionals recognize the combination of several factors which could trigger Postpartum Depression:

  • Problematic marriage – absence of satisfaction;
  • Poor or inadequate support from partner, friends and family members;
  • Depressive mood and body changes during pregnancy;
  • Complicated reproductive history (infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, problematic pregnancy);
  • Negative experience during delivery (disappointment, unexpected pain, unplanned sex of baby);
  • Life exhaustion or exhausting delivery;
  • Family history of postpartum depression.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PPD could appear any time after delivery from 24 hours to a few months after delivery and they usually last weeks:

Postpartum depression

Postpartum depression

  • Depressed mood, mood swings, sadness, hopelessness;
  • Tearfulness – frequent crying;
  • Anger, irritability and/or insecurity;
  • Sleep disturbances – trouble sleeping, severe insomnia;
  • Lack of care – lack of concern for self and/or newborn baby;
  • Doubts about being able to be a good mother;
  • Decreased interest in sex – decreased sexual responsiveness;
  • Lost pleasure in everyday life – lack of joy in life;
  • Reduced energy – constant fatigue;
  • Appetite changes – absence of appetite or increased hunger;
  • Difficulties in concentration – troubled memories – difficulties in decision making;
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt;
  • Dangerous thoughts about death – suicide attempts – homicide of newborn baby;
  • Physical symptoms without any objective reasons – headaches, chest pain, heart beats, numbness, shakiness, dizziness, shortness of breath.

Diagnosis

In-time diagnosis of Postpartum Depression is important for effective treatment. Sometimes PPD diagnosis is overlooked because women after childbirth spend a lot of time alone with children and family members could not discover unusual symptoms.

Most mothers are exhausted after childbirth and many symptoms of PPD could be neglected.

If you have above mentioned symptoms during few weeks after delivery, you better discuss your problems with family doctor or loved once.

Treatment

Postpartum Depression treatment methods could vary and usually include counseling, antidepressant medication, anti-anxiety medication and hormone therapy. In some special cases of PPD (especially postpartum psychosis), hospitalization could be necessary.

The main goal of treatment should be to keep mother and baby safe and sometimes it could be necessary to keep baby separately.

In most cases the treatment of PPD is very effective.


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