Postpartum depression is nothing to take lightly. I watched a loved one go through it, and it was a scary time for her. And for me. Had I been more aware of the signs and symptoms, and had we talked about it in advance of her delivery, maybe we both would have been more aware. But we weren’t. For this reason, this blog topic is going to offer information from the Cleveland Clinic about postpartum depression and its signs and symptoms. It is by no means a comprehensive, diagnostic tool, but something to keep in the back (or front) of your mind after someone you know gives birth.
Luckily, things worked out well for her, but it was not without medical intervention and treatment. Talk about postpartum depression, make others aware of it, and encourage those who may have it to seek a diagnosis and treatment. There is no reason to suffer in silence. The information provided here is from the Cleveland Clinic.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a type of that happens after someone gives birth. Postpartum depression doesn't just affect the birthing person. It can affect surrogates and adoptive parents, too. People experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial, and social changes after having a baby. These changes can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that happens after someone gives birth. Postpartum depression doesn't just affect the birthing person. It can affect surrogates and adoptive parents, too. People experience hormonal, physical, emotional, financial, and social changes after having a baby. These changes can cause symptoms of postpartum depression.
What are the types of postpartum depression?
There are three different types of postpartum mood disorders:
Postpartum Blues or Baby Blues
The baby blues affect between 50% and 75% of people after delivery. If you're experiencing the baby blues, you will have frequent, prolonged bouts of crying for no apparent reason, sadness, and anxiety. The condition usually begins in the first week (one to four days) after delivery. Although the experience is unpleasant, the condition usually subsides within two weeks without treatment. The best thing you can do is find support and ask for help from friends, family, or your partner.
Postpartum depression is a far more serious condition than the baby blues, affecting about 1 in 7 new parents. If you've had postpartum depression before, your risk increases to 30% each pregnancy. You may experience alternating highs and lows, frequent crying, irritability and fatigue, as well as feelings of guilt, anxiety and inability to care for your baby or yourself. Symptoms range from mild to severe and may appear within a week of delivery or gradually, even up to a year later. Although symptoms can last several months, treatment with psychotherapy or antidepressants is very effective.
Postpartum psychosis is an extremely severe form of postpartum depression and requires emergency medical attention. This condition is relatively rare, affecting only 1 in 1,000 people after delivery. The symptoms generally occur quickly after delivery and are severe, lasting for a few weeks to several months. Symptoms include severe agitation, confusion, feelings of hopelessness and shame, insomnia, paranoia, delusions or hallucinations, hyperactivity, rapid speech or mania. Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention since there is an increased risk of suicide and risk of harm to the baby. Treatment will usually include hospitalization, psychotherapy, and medication.
Who is affected by postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is common. As many as 75% of people experience baby blues after delivery. Up to 15% of these people will develop postpartum depression. One in 1,000 people develop postpartum psychosis.
How do I know if I have baby blues or postpartum depression?
Many people have baby blues after giving birth. Baby blues and postpartum depression have similar symptoms. However, symptoms of baby blues last about 10 days and are less intense. With postpartum depression, the symptoms last weeks or months, and the symptoms are more severe.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Postpartum depression can last until one year after your child is born. However, this doesn't mean you should feel "cured" in one year. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms and treatment. Be honest about how you feel. Think carefully about if you feel better than you did at the beginning of your diagnosis. Then, your provider can recommend ongoing treatment for your symptoms.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Some people feel ashamed about their symptoms or feel they are terrible parents for feeling the way they do. Postpartum depression is extremely common. You're not the only person who feels this way, and it doesn't mean you're a bad person.
You may have postpartum depression if you experience some of the following:
- Feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, or guilty.
- Worrying excessively or feeling on edge.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things you once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite or not eating.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Trouble sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
- Crying for no reason or excessively.
- Difficulty thinking or focusing.
- Thoughts of suicide or wishing you were dead.
- Lack of interest in your baby or feeling anxious around your baby.
- Thoughts of hurting your baby or feeling like you don't want your baby.
Contact your healthcare provider if you think you have postpartum depression. This can be your obstetrician, primary care provider or mental health provider. Your baby's pediatrician can also help you.
What causes postpartum depression?
More research is needed to determine the link between the rapid drop in hormones after delivery and depression. The levels of estrogen and progesterone increase tenfold during pregnancy but drop sharply after delivery. By three days postpartum, levels of these hormones drop back to pre-pregnancy levels.
In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes associated with having a baby increase your risk of postpartum depression. Examples of these changes include physical changes to your body, lack of sleep, worries about parenting or changes to your relationships.
Can postpartum depression affect my baby?
Yes, postpartum depression can affect your baby. Getting treatment is important for both you and your baby.
How is postpartum depression diagnosed?
There is not a specific test that diagnoses postpartum depression. Your healthcare provider will evaluate you at your postpartum visit. This visit may include discussing your health history, how you’ve felt since delivery, a physical exam, pelvic exam and lab tests. Many providers schedule visits at two or three weeks postpartum to screen for depression. This ensures you get the help you need as soon as possible.
Your provider may do a depression screening or ask you a series of questions to assess if you have postpartum depression. They'll ask how you're feeling and how your baby is doing. Be open and honest with your provider to ensure they get an accurate picture of your emotions and thoughts. They can help distinguish if your feelings are typical or symptoms of postpartum depression.
Your healthcare provider may order a blood test because postpartum depression can cause symptoms similar to many thyroid conditions.
How do doctors screen for postpartum depression?
It can be hard to detect mild cases of postpartum depression. Healthcare providers rely heavily on your responses to their questions.
Many healthcare providers use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale to screen for postpartum depression. It consists of 10 questions related to symptoms of depression such as feeling unhappy, anxious, or guilty. You're asked to check the response that comes closest to how you've felt the last seven days. A higher score indicates possible postpartum depression.
How is postpartum depression treated?
Postpartum depression is treated differently depending on the type and severity of your symptoms. Treatment options include anti-anxiety or antidepressant medicines, psychotherapy (talk therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy) and support group participation.
What are ways to cope with postpartum depression?
It's OK to feel overwhelmed. Parenting is full of ups and downs and having a baby isn't easy. If you have depression, you don't have to suffer alone. Your healthcare provider can help find a treatment that works for you.
Here are some things you can do to help cope with postpartum depression:
- Find someone to talk to — a therapist, friend, family member or someone who will listen to you and help you.
- Join a support group for new parents.
- Try to eat healthily and find time for exercise.
- Prioritize rest for yourself.
- Go out with friends or talk to them on the phone.
- Find time for self-care and doing things you enjoy, like reading or other hobbies.
- Get help with household chores or errands.
What happens if postpartum depression isn't treated?
Untreated postpartum depression is dangerous and affects you, your baby and those who love you. It can make you:
- Feel like you have no energy.
- Believe you can't take care of your baby.
- Unable to focus or make decisions.
- Have thoughts of hurting yourself.
Can postpartum depression be prevented?
Postpartum depression isn't entirely preventable. It helps to know warning signs of the condition and what factors increase your risk. Here are some tips that can help prevent postpartum depression:
- Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your baby.
- Limit visitors when you first go home.
- Ask for help — let others know how they can help you.
- Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps.
- Exercise — take a walk and get out of the house for a break.
- Keep in touch with your family and friends — don't isolate yourself.
- Foster your relationship with your partner — make time for each other.
- Expect some good days and some bad days.
For immediate help or if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else:
- Dial 911 in an emergency.
- Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or use their chat feature online. They can also provide free and confidential emotional support.