Battling Postpartum Depression: What You Need to Know

While many women experience feelings of anxiety, sadness, or mood swings after delivering their babies, these “baby blues” often go away as women’s hormone levels revert back to their pre-pregnancy levels and they begin to settle into the changes that motherhood brings.

Some women, however, suffer far more serious bouts of depression after giving birth. Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or a lack of interest in their baby are associated with postpartum depression, a serious form of depression that requires treatment.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

The birth of a baby can quite unexpectedly lead to depression in some women. While the mood swings and sadness that characterize baby blues tend to last a week or two soon after the infant’s delivery, postpartum depression can occur at any time within the first year after delivery and can be quite severe and long-lasting.

Like other forms of depression, postpartum depression is not a choice; it is a mental disorder that requires treatment, which can alleviate its symptoms so that sufferers can feel well again and enjoy their new baby.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Symptoms of postpartum depression usually occur within the first few weeks after delivery but may appear later on in the year. Symptoms can interfere with a mother’s ability to care for herself or her baby. These symptoms often involve:

  • Depressed feelings
  • Severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Sleep disturbances (which may be exacerbated by the baby’s nightly waking)
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Suffering from fatigue or anxiety
  • Experiencing thoughts of doing harm to the baby or oneself

It’s easy to mistake postpartum depression initially as “baby blues”, or as routine fatigue that is common among new mothers. However, postpartum depression often includes several of these symptoms and is characterized by severity that may even increase in intensity.

Treatment Is Vital for Women Suffering from Postpartum Depression

If you have suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming your baby, you should tell your doctor immediately. These are definitive warning signs of postpartum depression. Your physician needs to know about any symptoms you might be feeling that have to do with depression. If your “baby blues” last beyond a week or two and are growing in severity, you may need treatment.

Postpartum depression treatment often includes psychotherapy and antidepressants. Women diagnosed with this disorder are also encouraged to get more rest and try to rely more on the help of family and friends. It can take a couple weeks for antidepressants to have an effect on the disorder.

Some women may not respond well to antidepressants. In extreme cases, women may find relief from their depression or symptoms of psychosis with electro-convulsive therapy. In many cases, however, counseling and antidepressants generate positive results.

Postpartum depression is serious and should never be ignored. It is also something no women should feel shame about. Postpartum depression is beyond a sufferer’s control. Treatment for postpartum depression can help women overcome this debilitating disorder, so be sure to discuss any symptoms with your healthcare provider as soon as they arise.