Giving birth to a new baby is usually a time of joy and celebration. Who hasn’t seen commercials of happy, smiling moms doting over a newborn baby? Yet, there’s a darker side of giving birth that you don’t hear as much about. Postpartum depression is a potentially serious condition that is often swept under the carpet. In fact, most people don’t understand or harbor certain misconceptions about it. Even the experts aren’t completely clear on what causes it. Here are five facts you might not know about postpartum depression.
1. It’s More Common Than You Think
Estimates are that 10 to 20% of women experience postpartum depression after giving birth – and women aren’t the only victims. Up to 10% of fathers experience it as well. These estimates are conservative. The number of people affected is probably higher as not everyone seeks medical attention. Needless to say, it’s a serious problem and one that often goes untreated.
2. It’s More Than a Case of the “Baby Blues”
About half of all women experience mood swings after giving birth. No wonder! After giving birth, your hormones fluctuate wildly as your body tries to return to its pre-pregnancy state. These changes can send your emotions on a roller coaster ride. You might be smiling one minute and crying the next. Then there are the emotional aspects of being a new mom. Your entire life has been transformed by the little person you gave birth to and you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities you face.
Unlike postpartum depression, the baby blues usually last for a week or two before subsiding. Plus, the blues are usually not debilitating. You’re still able to care for yourself and your baby. The symptoms of postpartum depression are more debilitating and usually don’t go away after a week or two. In fact, if experience “the blues” for longer than two weeks, it’s important to get help.
3. Postpartum Depression Can Be Long Lived
As mentioned, the baby blues rarely last for more than a week or two while postpartum depression can persist for weeks or months. Sometimes the symptoms don’t even show up until several months after giving birth. By definition, symptoms of postpartum depression can appear anytime within the first year after delivering a child.
4. Any Woman Can Experience It
If you’ve given birth or even if you’ve miscarried, you can experience postpartum depression. Young moms and first timers get it and you can develop it when you give birth later in life as well. Whether it’s your first pregnancy or your third, you’re not immune. One risk factor for postpartum depression is having experienced it in the past. If you were depressed after a previous pregnancy, your risk is higher. Some experts also believe you’re at higher risk if you don’t have a strong support system during or after pregnancy or if you experienced depression or anxiety prior to becoming pregnant. Other life stressors such as a death in the family, loss of a job, or martial problems may also increase the risk.
Here are some of symptoms you might experience:
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of guilt or low self-esteem
- Feelings of intense sadness
- Physical symptoms, like headache, nausea, panic, rapid heartbeat, numbness/tingling in the hands/feet
- Lack of interest in food
- Lack of interest in other people, including your baby and family
- Fear or harming yourself or your baby
5. There Are Effective Treatments
If you’re diagnosed with postpartum depression, treatments are available and usually include a combination of counseling and medications. The medication most doctors prescribe is an anti-depressant, which is helpful in up to two-thirds of cases. The key is to seek help if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, especially if you feel like you might harm yourself. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, you’re not alone and help is available.
National Institute of Mental Health. “Postpartum Depression Facts”
MedicineNet.com. “Postpartum Depression”