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Postpartum Depression: Facts, Figures and Information

 

What is postpartum depression?

postpartum depressionPostpartum 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 clinician.

Postpartum psychosis:

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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