For 38 percent of sufferers, the condition becomes chronic, and mothers who expected it to pass as their children aged can struggle to find effective treatments.
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Of all the life experiences available to women, giving birth to a child is generally seen as a pinnacle. It’s commonly believed that delivering the gift of new human life into the world should cause a woman to glow with radiant joy. So why do many brand-new mothers feel depressed, rather than elated?
New mothers can experience what is known as “baby blues” or feelings of sadness. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 50% to 80% of women endure mood swings, occasional crying jags, anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia within the first 2 to 3 days after delivery. These symptoms tend to vanish without treatment in about two weeks.
But a significant number of women experience something more profoundly disturbing. When the usual symptoms of the “baby blues” are severe, and last more than two weeks, the condition known as postpartum depression (PPD) may be present.
What are a mother’s signs of postpartum depression?
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, or being overwhelmed
- Crying frequently or without an apparent cause
- Feeling overly anxious
- Loss of appetite
- Inappropriate anger
- Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed
- Moodiness, irritability, or restlessness
- Frequent headaches and/or stomach problems
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having difficulty forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Consistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking of harming herself or her baby
What causes postpartum depression?
During pregnancy, hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone are elevated. Those hormones after pregnancy quickly drop. This chemical reversal causes changes in a new mother’s brain that are responsible for many of the symptoms of PPD.
Many mothers also find the new demands of motherhood make it difficult to get the rest they need. Sleep deprivation both causes and exacerbates the symptoms of PPD.
It’s important to remember that PPD is not caused by the actions or inactions of a new mother. It’s not her fault. It just happens. And it happens to a lot of new moms.
How common is postpartum depression?
Estimates of the prevalence of PPD range from 11% to 18% of new mothers.
What are the risk factors for postpartum depression?
Some women are at greater risk of developing PPD because they have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Depressive symptoms during or after a previous pregnancy
- An earlier encounter with depression or bipolar disorder
- Family history of depression
- A traumatic life event during or shortly after pregnancy
- Medical complications during childbirth, such as premature delivery or a baby with unusual medical needs
- An unplanned pregnancy
- Lack of emotional support from spouse, partner, family, or friends
According to the CDC, breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and baby
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of heart disease, type II diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer for the mother. The benefits to babies from breast-feeding include reduction in the risks of asthma, obesity, diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and sudden infant unexpected death syndrome. In fact, breast-feeding itself often reduces PPD symptoms.
Mothers who are depressed are less likely to breastfeed and when they do, it’s usually for a shorter duration than mothers without depression.
How to treat postpartum depression
The symptoms of PPD are so multiple, and so variable, that they are often internally contradictory. Only a competent and experienced healthcare provider can accurately differentiate PPD from all the other possible causes and conditions.
As noted in the Journal of Women’s Health, “Postpartum depressive symptoms are common and are associated with adverse maternal and infant outcomes, such as lower breast-feeding initiation and duration and poor maternal and infant bonding. Postpartum depression is treatable.”
The effective treatments for postpartum depression began with counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps to recognize and change negative thoughts and behaviors, is often successful in abating the symptoms of PPD. Interpersonal therapy, which helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships, is also useful in PPD treatment.
Antidepressant medications are also available to help regulate mood.
Left untreated, postpartum depression is dangerous for mother and child
Many women who suffer from PPD are deeply embarrassed by their inability to be the stereotypically joyous new mom. They come to believe the symptoms that are overwhelming them are caused by some innate character flaw within them, and they feel too ashamed to seek help. These women are at risk of lifelong debilitating chronic depression. If you are struggling with depression, please know that you’re not alone and that effective treatment is available. Thaïs
About Dr. Thais Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB-GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor. We invite you to establish care with Dr. Aliabadi. Please click here to make an appointment or call us at (844) 863-6700.
Read the full article at: www.theatlantic.com
Supported by her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi treats women through all phases of life and cherishes the special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor.