A shocking amount of women experience the signs of postpartum depression, and many may go unnoticed, which is why it’s important to learn how to recognize postpartum depression to help yourself or others get treatment.
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On average, one in nine women experience signs of postpartum depression, according to a study by the CDC, but because the results vary state by state, it’s estimated that as high as one in five women could experience postpartum depression. That’s shockingly high and likely impacts more women than are officially diagnosed and reported. Although there are several “risk factors” associated with postpartum depression, it could happen to any woman, which is why it’s more important than ever to learn the warning signs of postpartum depression so that you can seek treatment yourself or encourage a loved one.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Much like depression that affects anyone, women who have just given birth may experience depression-like symptoms due to a multitude of factors. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that may cause women post-childbirth to feel severely overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious or sad. For many parents, the symptoms of postpartum depression can lead them to not be able to take care of themselves or others, making it very difficult for some women with depression to bond and care for their new babies.
Although depression after childbirth can have several factors, including physical and emotional ones, it’s partially caused by a change in hormone levels after childbirth. Women experience a rush of hormones during childbirth, which quickly drop, potentially triggering mood changes in the brain that can lead to depression. As any parent knows, it’s nearly impossible to get a good night’s sleep with a newborn, and sleep deprivation and exhaustion can contribute to the development of symptoms of postpartum depression.
How to Spot the Signs of Postpartum Depression in Women
There are several signs of postpartum depression, as well as general depression, that everyone should recognize in order to either get help themselves or encourage someone else to get help:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, severely anxious or overwhelmed
- Crying for no reason (or more than is usual)
- Oversleeping or being unable to sleep regardless of the baby’s sleep schedule
- Having trouble concentrating, making decisions or recalling details
- Losing interest in once-enjoyed activities
- Feeling irritable, moody, angry or enraged
- Noticing changes in diet, such as eating too much or losing appetite
- Experiencing physical aches and pains for no particular reason
- Withdrawing from friends, family and social environments
- Having difficulty bonding with the baby or doubting her ability to take care of the baby
- Considering harming herself or the child(ren)
While many women experience levels of exhaustion and a wide range of emotion when they have a baby, the emotions of depression are severe. It’s important to note that the signs of postpartum depression may not even begin until as many as six months after childbirth, but for most women, symptoms begin within a week or month of delivering the baby.
You or a loved one may be at a higher risk of postpartum depression if you identify with any of these risk factors:
- Experienced symptoms or previous diagnosis of depression during other points of life, including previous pregnancies
- Has a family member with a history of mental illness
- Suffered from high stress during pregnancy or immediately after childbirth
- Felt mixed feelings about pregnancy or having a baby
- Developed medical problems or had difficulty with delivery or the health of the baby
- Lacked an emotional support system throughout pregnancy and post-childbirth
- Has a history of alcohol or drug abuse
If you are at all concerned that you may be experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor right away. Similarly, if you’re pregnant and concerned about the potential risk factors of postpartum depression, talk it over with your partner and your doctor so that you can reduce stress and be aware of the warning signs.
How Postpartum Depression is Different from the “Baby Blues”
The signs of postpartum depression will appear different for everyone, so don’t be ashamed to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. Although very different from depression, many women may also experience what is called the “baby blues.” After having a baby, women (and their partners, for that matter) tend to feel fatigued, worried about their baby and feel somewhat unhappy. New parents are particularly susceptible to these feelings because – let’s face it – taking care of a baby is a lot of work. Unlike depression, the symptoms of “baby blues” dissipate after days or up to two weeks. If those feelings of unhappiness continue, it’s definitely worth discussing your symptoms with your doctor.
As a society, we are becoming more and more accepting of talking about feelings as well as more and more accepting of therapy as a form of treatment. Once upon a time, therapy was kept very secret and only talked about in whispers. DO NOT be afraid to try therapy regardless of whether or not you have been diagnosed with postpartum depression. Talk to your doctor and discuss the options that are right for you and your family.
We’d love for you to share your story if you feel comfortable telling it. Have you or a loved one suffered from symptoms of postpartum depression?