Postpartum depression is usually experienced within the first three weeks after delivering the child. This article discusses its symptoms, as well as the causes and treatment, in order to give you a better understanding about this condition.
The birth of a child is one of the most blissful experiences of life. But it is also true that childbirth and a newborn’s need for constant care can put a lot of stress on a new mother. Along with these, the changes in the levels of hormones after childbirth can result in something really unexpected like depression.
The term that is used for the depression that new mothers experience shortly after childbirth is postpartum or postnatal depression. Sometimes, the new fathers can also get depressed during this period.
Depression After Childbirth
Several factors can contribute towards the development of this condition. One of the most important factor is hormonal fluctuations. During pregnancy, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase in the body. But after childbirth, there is a significant drop in the levels of these two hormones, which can manifest in depression at times.
In addition to these, factors like sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and the lack of support from the family or the partner can contribute or aggravate this condition. So, both emotional and physiological changes a woman experiences after childbirth can lead to depression.
Men can develop this condition due to the changes in their emotional environment, sleep deprivation, financial issues, and extra pressure and responsibilities of the family. After childbirth, a woman has to give more attention to the baby, instead of maintaining her bond with her husband. As a result, the new father can feel lonely and neglected, which can eventually cause depression.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of this condition can be mild or severe. Typically, the symptoms appear in women within 2 to 3 weeks following the delivery of the child. The most common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Loss of pleasure and interest in daily activities
- A feeling of emptiness
- Changes in appetite, usually a decrease in appetite
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Sadness and anxiety
- Problems in sleeping
- Lack of interest in the baby, as well as in herself
- A sense of worthlessness
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Changes in weight
- A lack of interest in sex
Some of the symptoms of postpartum depression in men and women can be similar. For example, a lack of interest in the baby or an inability to bond with the child may be observed in both men and women affected by this condition. Additionally, men may exhibit the following symptoms if they are suffering from this condition:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Increased anger and conflict
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Headaches and digestive ailments
- Increased use of alcohol
Postpartum psychosis is a rare condition that can develop in some women within the first two weeks after childbirth, and is quite severe than postpartum depression. Its symptoms can include:
- Delusions and paranoia
- Attempts to harm the baby or herself
Mild depression after childbirth or ‘baby blues’ can resolve within a few weeks. For a severe case, treatment in the form of counseling can be required. Medications like antidepressants and hormone therapy are also used at times. For men, counseling is the best treatment option. Sometimes, antidepressants are also used for treating this condition in men.
Postpartum psychosis on the other hand, requires immediate medical attention and treatment with antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, mood stabilizers, and electroconvulsive therapy. To sum up, postnatal depression needs proper medical treatment, if it lasts more than a few weeks. If left untreated, it can last for a year or so, and one can develop severe depression. However, this condition can be managed effectively with prompt treatment, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and a balanced diet, and emotional support from the family and friends.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.