The birth of a child is a joyous time for parents and similarly grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings. This feeling of pride and happiness is most experienced by the new parents, especially mothers. As a result, the bond a mother forms with her child is one of the most rewarding parts of giving birth. Many mothers have an expectation of what parenthood will look like and probably what type of role model they wish to be. These standard feelings and thoughts are the norm for most new mothers, but not for those mothers with postpartum depression or PPD. Being a mother who does not feel an attachment to their newborn child may be a difficult feeling to grasp. Fortunately, seeking help for these emotions can greatly help those with postpartum depression feel better and get back to spending time with their family.
It is important to distinguish the "baby blues" from PPD. The baby blues typically last a few days to one to two weeks after birth. Symptoms include feelings of anxiety, sadness, and irritability, among others. These symptoms are usually less severe than PPD. This is in contrast to postpartum psychosis, which is a rare condition that typically presents itself in the first week after birth. Postpartum psychosis signs and symptoms are severe and may include paranoia, confusion and disorientation, and hallucinations and delusions.
Similar to other depressive disorders, PPD is a mood disorder. This means mothers with this diagnosis feel extreme emotions, such as anxiety and sadness. As a result of these feelings mothers may have behaviors which get in the way of parenting. Postpartum depression may cause a mother to struggle with basic tasks. These talks can include care taking, household chores, work, school, or spending time with family. These struggles are what set this diagnosis apart from normal energy and mood changes when caring for a newborn. As a result, to properly be treated postpartum depression should be diagnosed by a medical doctor.
Women who were once diagnosed or have a family history of bipolar or substance use disorders are at risk for developing postpartum depression. Additionally, women who have previously had postpartum mood changes are at a higher risk for experiencing them again. Medical conditions, lack of social support, or hesitancy about motherhood can also increase a woman’s risk. Having strong social supports can certainly assist with the difficulties of early motherhood. These social supports can come in the form of family or friends.
Some of the most common symptoms are feelings of extreme anxiety, hopelessness, and sadness. These symptoms also come with other mood changes such as excessive crying, self-harm, anger, and with loss of motivation for hobbies or interests. This loss of motivation may cause a mother to stop seeing friends or family members. The loss of motivation may cause a mother to have difficulty even spending time with her new child. Postpartum depression can also cause changes in thinking such as trouble concentrating and making simple decisions. Most all mental health diagnoses have physical effects as well. As with other types of depression, postpartum depression can cause appetite changes, frequent headaches, and body aches. This connection between emotion and body also causes heightened emotions near the start of the menstrual cycle.
Mothers may have heard stories of others with postpartum depression, which may make them cope in silence with their own struggle. Consulting a doctor is the best way to know if extreme emotions after childbirth are due to postpartum depression or if they have another cause. Sometimes, postpartum depression goes away within three months after childbirth, but not without hurtful changes in function before.
Seeking treatment is the best way to ensure postpartum depression is taken care of for good. Individual or group counseling can help with changing negative thoughts and healing social relationships. Cognitive behavioral therapy is something we have discussed before and is one of the treatments for PPD. Medication can assist with mood changes, especially if a mother has a known history of postpartum depression (there are also options that have no harmful effects on a growing fetus or breastfeeding). The FDA also recently approved brexanolone, the first drug approved specifically for PPD. The good news is a doctor can determine the best treatment path for your individual circumstances and diagnoses.
Living with postpartum depression can be difficult, even with treatment. At-home remedies such as exercise, support groups, and relaxing hobbies can add to the effects of counseling or medication. To ensure your treatments are a good fit and that symptoms are being addressed properly you should maintain open communication with your doctor. Awareness of PPD is important because of its effects. Awareness is most effective when combined with action and education. By sticking to recommended treatments, it is possible for a new mother to continue her daily activities and return to spending quality time with her newborn.
At Talkiatry, our providers are available for consultations on a wide variety of mental health symptoms. Our providers can determine if treatment is recommended and what options are appropriate for you.
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