The birth of a child brings with it a cocktail of emotions from joy and excitement to fear and anxiety. Many new moms experience “baby blues” which includes mood swings, anxiety, crying spells, and difficulty sleeping.
Baby blues usually begin 2 -3 days after delivery and last few days to 2 weeks.
But some new moms experience severe symptoms and long-lasting forms of depressive symptoms called postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression or postnatal depression is a complex mix of physical, emotional, or behavioral changes that happen to women after childbirth. Having PPD doesn’t mean that the mother doesn’t love the child but rather has a mental health condition.
The accounts of PPD can also be seen in the work of Hippocrates in 460BC where there is a description of symptoms like fever, delirium, mania, etc. in new mothers. DSM-5 identifies it as a specifier under major depressive disorder.
Often symptoms of postpartum depression are initially mistaken for baby blues. Symptoms for postpartum depression usually develop within the first few weeks to up to 1 year after giving birth. The symptoms include regular depression symptoms like depressed mood, change in appetite, sleep disturbances, reduced interest in pleasurable activities, suicidal thoughts, etc. It even includes symptoms like difficulty bonding with the baby and excessive crying. There is a constant fear of not being a good mother to the child. A study revealed that 50% of postpartum depressive episodes start before childbirth.
Although rare but new fathers can also experience postpartum depression. It is called parental postpartum depression. Signs and symptoms are the same as those in women.
There is no single cause for developing postpartum depression. After childbirth, there is serve drop in hormone (estrogen and progesterone) levels.
The production of estrogen and progesterone increases tenfold during pregnancy and post-delivery with 3 days the drop is so served that women who are already at a risk for developing affective disorders might develop PPD.
fMRI of mothers with PPD and without PPD shows reduced neural activity in the left frontal lobe and increased activity in the right frontal lobe. This reduces connectivity to other brain areas with impacts on empathy, memory, and emotion regulation.
A newborn needs a lot of care mostly at odd hours leaving the parents to sleep-deprived and overwhelmed. One may start feeling anxious, face identity issues or loss of control in life. These sudden lifestyle changes can be contributing factors in developing PPD.
Risk factors include the history of depression, family history of mood disorders, and age of conceiving, childhood trauma, and marital conflict.
Epidemiology and complications
Up to 70% of new mothers have baby blues. 1 in 10 women who have baby blues developss serve PPD.
10% of new fathers may develop prenatal depression within 3-6 months of childbirth. If untreated mothers can develop chronic depression.
PPD interferes with childcare, leading to an inconsistency in caregiving. This interfered child maternal bonding can have an impact on child’s development.
It’s not anyone’s fault or a women’s weakness when they develop postpartum depression.it is treatable. PPD’s course of treatment is psychotherapy and medication.
Special Groups for mothers with postpartum depression can help you talk to people going through something similar to your experience. It is nice to share with people who understand and know what you are dealing with.
In addition to professional treatment, some lifestyle changes can help the recovery process. Trying to include exercise in daily life like taking nature walks with a baby or yoga can prove helpful. Scale back your expectations for everything, give yourself the space to do things slowly and take breaks. Do something good for yourself. It can be a hobby or taking a day out with yourself anything you enjoy. Break the isolation talk to your partner, family, or friends about your experience.