Depression: Facts, Figures and Information
What is postpartum depression?
depression is a condition which describes a range of physical and emotional
changes a woman may have after having a baby. As in most depressive conditions,
postpartum depression may effect an individual to a mild degree or may be as
severe as causing a psychotic reaction or a loss of touch with reality.
Is postpartum depression really
just the old “baby blues”?
Postpartum depression is not what has been
described by many as the “ baby blues”. The baby blues happen in many women in
the days following the birth of a child, and include sudden mood swings, from
feeling very happy to feeling very sad. A new mother may cry for no explainable
reason and may feel impatient, irritable, restless,
anxious, lonely and sad. The
baby blues may last for anywhere from several hours to as long as several weeks
after delivery, and do not usually require treatment from a health-care
provider. Some experts believe that these feelings may occur in as many as 70% -
80% of women after childbirth.
Postpartum depression on the other hand, can
happen from several days to even months after childbirth. It can happen after
the birth of any child, and not just after the couple’s first child. While many
of the feelings may be similar to the baby blues such as sadness, despair,
anxiety and irritability, they are felt much more intensely than if she were to
have the baby blues. Also, postpartum depression is debilitating, interfering
with a woman’s ability to function and usually requires professional treatment
by a mental health professional. If a woman does not get treatment, symptoms may
get worse and last for as long as a year.
What are some of the main
symptoms of postpartum depression?
The main signs of postpartum depression are
similar to those found in other types of depressive disorders. The most
prominent symptoms include feeling restless or irritable, feeling sad or crying
a lot, lack of energy, headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, difficulty
sleeping and/or eating, trouble concentrating and making decisions. Also there’s
frequently a sense of being overly worried about the baby or not having any
interest in the child. Also, many mothers have a feeling of worthlessness and
guilt, and fear of hurting the baby or themselves. Some women are also known to
have what may be called a postpartum anxiety or panic disorder, rather than
having a postpartum depression. Signs of this condition include strong anxiety
and fear, rapid breathing, fast heart rate, hot or cold flashes, chest pain and
feeling shaky or dizzy. Intense anxiety or depression following childbirth, is
always indicative of the need to consult a health-care, or mental health
Postpartum psychosis is an extremely serious
mental illness which may affect some new mothers. It may develop quickly, often
within the first three months following the birth of a child. Postpartum
psychosis is when a woman loses touch with reality and may have auditory
hallucinations (hearing things that really aren’t
occurring), and delusions
(extremely distorted views of individuals and circumstances). Some may have
visual hallucinations (seeing things which really aren’t there), which are much
less common. Other symptoms include insomnia, feeling agitated and angry, and
demonstrating strange feelings and behaviors. Individuals with postpartum
psychosis need to seek treatment immediately and almost always require
medication. Sometimes mothers with this condition are hospitalized to keep them
from hurting themselves or others.
By Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D Candidate
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