What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is the mood disorder known as "baby blues" that occurs in women soon after giving birth. This condition can continue up to a year after delivery. Postpartum depression can also worsen into a rare condition known as postpartum psychosis.

Causes of postpartum depression

Several factors that can lead to postpartum depression. When you're pregnant, you have a lot of hormones in your body. Once you give birth, the amounts of these hormones drop to much lower levels quickly. These hormone shifts can leave you feeling depressed. Having a new baby might also affect how much sleep you're able to get. Plus, it's a big life change, and worrying about your parenting skills can be stressful. These and other emotional issues can contribute to whether or not you get postpartum depression

Risk factors for postpartum depression

Any new mother is at risk of postpartum depression. However, you're at a greater risk if you're experiencing more stress than normal. This may happen because you've had complications with your pregnancy or stress related to giving birth to a baby with special needs.

Other risk factors include:

  • New mothers to twins, triplets or multiple births
  • Problems with your significant other
  • Insufficient support system
  • Financial constraints

Symptoms of postpartum depression

The main symptoms of postpartum depression are feeling depressed, anxious and upset a few days after childbirth. You may feel angry with those around you, even your new baby.

Other symptoms include:

  • Struggling to make choices
  • Crying for no specific reason
  • Lacking an appetite or overeating
  • Trouble sleeping or bonding with your baby
  • Doubting whether you're able to care for your baby

Diagnosis of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression requires diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional. It's important to talk with your doctor about this very common mood disorder. They can help you keep it from getting worse.

Treatments for postpartum depression

Postpartum depression can happen to a new mother, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or economic status. Treatment can also vary greatly. If you don't get treatment, it may last for months or years. This can impact your mental health.

Counseling, also called talk therapy, can help. This is when you talk with a trained mental health therapist. This person can help you work through your negative thoughts and behaviors. You may better understand and accept any troubles in your relationships. Doctors can also prescribe certain medications. These help your brain chemistry normalize after pregnancy. In general, these are safe to use during breastfeeding. Be sure to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.

These treatments can work separately or together. It depends on how strong your symptoms are. Be sure to ask for help. Finding support from family and friends is also important during this time. This is especially true if you experience negative thought patterns.

Recovery from postpartum depression

The earlier postpartum depression is diagnosed, the faster you can get treatment. Don't be ashamed about any negative thoughts or feelings. This is a very natural condition. Treatment and full recovery are possible, so you can continue to be the best parent possible.

Be patient and kind to yourself and your baby during treatment. It can take a couple weeks for medication and counseling to begin working. If you have any questions or concerns, talk with your doctor immediately.

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