Understanding Postpartum Depression


Postpartum depression is often dismissed as the ‘baby blues,’ but it is much more than that. The baby blues are a temporary period of sadness after giving birth. The feelings are part of an adjustment period affected by fluctuating hormone levels and typically go away within 10 days.

Postpartum depression is a mental illness that affects women anywhere from one month to one year after the birth of a child. According to mental health organisation Beyond Blue, postpartum depression affects almost 16 percent of women. It is nothing to be ashamed of and it can be treated.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (also referred to as postnatal depression) is a mood disorder that affects women after they have given birth. It is not the only type of depression associated with pregnancy and childbirth. One in ten women experience antenatal depression during pregnancy.

Depression can occur anytime during the period from conception to when the child is one year old. Depression during this period is referred to as perinatal depression.

Postpartum depression is characterised by feelings of sadness or distress that last for two weeks or more after the birth.

The following symptoms could indicate postpartum depression:

  • Feeling low
  • Persistent feelings of inadequacy
  • Fear for the baby and not wanting to be alone with the baby
  • Loss of interest in general activities
  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to sleep
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting the baby
  • Ongoing negative thoughts

Women who experience any of these symptoms should talk to their doctor as soon as possible. Postpartum depression is frequently overlooked as women are undergoing so many changes all at once. Sleeping and eating habits may be different, and they’re also getting used to caring for an infant.

Depression or Just Tired?

The following symptoms can help to distinguish between normal ‘new parent’ exhaustion and feelings brought on by postpartum depression.

New Parent Tiredness Postpartum Depression
  • Feeling worn out but generally positive
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Tired, but aware that things will change as your child gets older.
  • Hopeless and unable to believe that things will ever improve.
  • Knowing that a good rest will make your mood better
  • Consistent negative thoughts even when you have had adequate sleep
  • Feeling joy about things in your life
  • Unable to find joy in anything at all

Reference: https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/maternal-mental-health-and-wellbeing/depression

How is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?

Postpartum depression can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. If you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing postpartum depression, they should talk to their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Untreated postpartum depression can continue for months or even years, and can impact the woman’s ability to care for her baby.

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

The good news is that postpartum depression can be treated. The type of treatment prescribed varies from woman to woman, but is usually made up of counseling, medication, or a combination of both.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common treatment approach for postpartum depression, as it helps a woman recognise and change negative thoughts or actions. A doctor may also prescribe antidepressants, which can take a few weeks to be effective.

Are There Any Home Remedies for Postpartum Depression?

If you prefer not to take medication, this is something you should discuss with your doctor as he or she can suggest things you can do at home. However, you should not try to self-diagnose or self-treat postpartum depression without professional help.

Ask your doctor about things like exercise, eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids, acupuncture, and making time for yourself, as these behaviours can support postpartum depression treatment.

What is Hormone Therapy for Postpartum Depression?

When a woman gives birth, her estrogen and progesterone levels drop substantially. Some scientists suspect that this hormone change could be linked to postpartum depression, and suggest hormone therapy may help.

There is some evidence that estrogen could be effective in treating postpartum depression, though further studies are needed for conclusive results. Estrogen therapy also has some downsides, such as creating issues with lactation and a higher risk of endometrial cancer.

Hormone levels could be predictive factors as to whether or not a woman is likely to experience postpartum depression. Scientists have conducted preliminary studies that suggest low levels of the hormone allopregnanolone during pregnancy could point to an increased likelihood postpartum depression.

Facts About Postpartum Depression

  • If you experience postpartum depression with the birth of one child it does not mean you will experience it again with the birth of another child.
  • New fathers are also at risk of experiencing depression after the birth of a child.
  • 40% of women with postpartum depression start experiencing symptoms during pregnancy.
  • Anxiety and depression are very closely linked, and women may experience both simultaneously.
  • There are a number of factors that are thought to contribute to the causes of postpartum depression, and they vary by individual.
  • Up to one in seven women will experience postpartum depression.

If you’re suffering from postpartum depression it’s important to seek professional support. While psychology services can be expensive, you could save by comparing health cover. Have you tried our free comparison tool?

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