11 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
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Postpartum depression is a term specifically associated with recurring feelings of anger, irritability, restlessness, mood swings, gloominess, anxiousness, and qualms about the health and care of the baby during the postpartum period. It is so broadly knocking back the mothers’ mental health that every 1 out of 9 moms in the US, irrespective of their age, the number of kids or confederation is found confronting postpartum depression disorder.

Postpartum depression also impacts the mental health of the newborn because recent research has unveiled that a mother’s mental state strongly influences the mental health of a newborn child. Postpartum depression is mostly reported in mothers who experience the preterm birth of the baby, any disability in the baby, and hindered or prolonged neurodevelopment of the baby. 

Severe postpartum depression is characterized by a specific terminology postpartum psychosis where a mother feels trouble connecting emotionally with a baby and arousal of harmful thoughts for a baby. A report published by Psychiatric Times in January 2014 suggests that it is an uncommon condition. Every 2 out of 1000 mothers are found to be dealing with severe postpartum depression or psychosis.

How Long Can Postpartum Anxiety Last?

When initial indications of postpartum depression are left underestimated for a longer period, and no measurements are taken, then you can face serious repercussions in the form of severe postpartum depression. Severe postpartum depression can make you indulge in a long row of mental health complications that will ultimately put down negative effects on your bodily health and control system too.

Causes Of Severe Postpartum Psychosis

Severe postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis results in intensified symptoms which normally don’t affect badly in the case of mild postpartum depression. Severe postpartum depression can be a result of :

  • History of the sufferer in bipolar disorder
  • Having a baby with special health needs and problems
  • Weak family support system
  • Facing difficulty in breastfeeding
  • Continuing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy

Signs And Indications Of Postpartum Psychosis

Symptoms of severe postpartum depression are somewhere more dangerous as compared to simple postpartum depression and include:

  • Sudden feelings of harming in some way or throwing the baby  
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hallucination
  • Delusion
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Confusion 
  • Difficulty in sleeping and disrupted sleep patterns
  • Difficulty in developing a bond with baby
  • A blank face as a result of being emotionless
  • Changes in appetite and eating habits
  • Perpexlity in responding emotionally to baby

Postpartum depression occurs differently in different moms; even one can suffer it differently from one pregnancy to another. It is necessary to understand that you should discuss it with your loved ones or your doctor whenever you feel bad changes in your emotions, body’s proper functioning, or behavior. You should find it whether you are going through postpartum depression or not so that you will seek treatment. Some symptoms can indicate the presence of postpartum depression. 

Symptoms of postpartum depression can be from mild to severe. Some of the symptoms include:

Changes In Your Everyday Life

  • Little interest in daily activities
  •  lesser or excessive sleep
  • Feeling tired all the day
  • Losing or gaining weight
  • Excessive eating or less than daily routine
  • Difficulty in concentration and making decisions

Changes In Your Feelings

  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Excessive crying
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, or anger
  • Fear of not being a good mom
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe mood swings

Changes In Your Thoughts About Yourself And Your Baby

  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Difficulty in making a good bond with your baby

If you are experiencing five or more of these symptoms that last more than two weeks, you are suffering from postpartum depression. If you think that you have postpartum depression, then you should consult with your psychiatrist. And if you feel that you can harm yourself or your baby, you should seek emergency services.

There is not any specific cause of postpartum depression. It is generally caused by a combination of emotional and physical factors that occur after a baby’s birth. It is necessary to understand that postpartum depression is not the result of any mistake made by the mother or something that she hadn’t done for her baby. Experts believe that it results from many reasons and those reasons occur differently in different people. Some of the reasons include:

Biological Reasons

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes after giving birth are considered to be the main reason for postpartum depression. After a baby’s birth, the concentration of estrogen and progesterone drop suddenly, and this sudden drop of hormones results in a depressed mood. Other hormones released by thyroid glands also drop and make you feel sluggish, tired, and depressed. 

Sleep Deprivation

The birth and the care needed for the baby are tiring. The sleep of mothers disturbs a lot because they have to feed their babies after every two hours, and thus mothers suffer from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation leads to physical and mental disturbances and metabolic imbalances. You get worried about even minor problems whenever you suffer from sleep deprivation, leading to postpartum depression. 

Other Reasons

  • Teen pregnancy (means the younger you are, the greater the chances)
  • Asthma
  • Limited social support
  • Martial conflict
  • Thyroid disorder or its related conditions
  • Preterm labor
  • Living alone
  • Having an abnormal child or a child with health problems
  • Having triplets or twins
  • Uncertainty about pregnancy
  • Fear to lose self-image
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • History of anxiety or bipolar disorders
  • Substance use such as alcohol
  • The recent death of a loved one
  • Birth complications

If we look at a broader perspective, we come to know that there is a long list of risk factors in alliance with postpartum depression. Women with family members with postpartum depression history are more susceptible to becoming a victim of this. Recent research has predicted that women with a history of other mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, mood disorders, and bipolar disorder, are 30% to 35% more liable of succumbing to postpartum depression at some stage in their lives. 

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If you are coming down with postpartum depression and trying to find out basic reasons and risk factors that are triggering your depressing state of mind, then the given below information about risk factors resulting in postpartum depression will surely explain the situation:

Obstetric Risk Factors

Obstetric risk factors include all the risks developing in a mother during the birth of a child and are often found contributing to postpartum depression. There exist a conflict in different studies suggesting a link between the number of deliveries and postpartum depression but a study by Mastin in 2013 suggested that psychological pressure on mothers with more than two children can be the reason for postpartum depression. Possible obstetric risk factors which can give rise to postpartum depression include:

  • Complicated pregnancy resulting in emergency hospitalization during pregnancy and casualty cesarean section.
  • Low hemoglobin concentration a week after the delivery.
  • State of insomnia during pregnancy mostly due to some previously existing mental illness. 

Environmental Risk Factors

Analysis has revealed while positive environmental factors work for the better amendment of a depressed mind, at the same time, there are also coexist negative risk factors which play a role in onsetting and aggravating postpartum depression. A systematic study in 2017 gave us an idea that postpartum depression is comparatively more common in countries with greater statistics of income inequality, the workload of more than 40 hours per week, and mother and child mortality rate. Major environmental factors that are escalating the risk of postpartum depression are:

  • Low and insufficient education level
  • History of domestic violence or abuse
  • Financial pressure

Biological Risk Factors

When we talk about the biological factors that are more probably able to put you at risk of postpartum depression, the mother’s age is one of the important factors to look at. Moms with ages ranging from 13 to 19 years are at greater risk, and the highest cases are reported in moms from this age group, while mommies with ages from 31 to 35 are less exposed to be diagnosed with postpartum depression. A study has also shown that mothers with multiple births, twins or triplets, and gestational diabetes are more liable to postpartum depression. Furthermore, postpartum depression finds links with the presence of:

  • Biomarkers of inflammation
  • Higher levels of oxytocin in midgestation as oxytocin is known to regulate emotions
  • A short term or longer depletion of happiness hormones the serotonin and tryptophan
  • Elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone
  • Glucose metabolism abnormality during pregnancy
  • Thyroiditis

Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors

Many factors responsible for postpartum depression are also related to your lifestyle, including exercise, sleep status, food intake patterns, and physical activities. By shifting to a healthy lifestyle and eating a healthy and nutritious diet, you can reduce the probability of postpartum depression by up 50%. Lifestyle factors that are suggested to prone you to postpartum depression are:

  • Moving or settling to an unfamiliar location
  • Reduced intake of essential micronutrients like zinc or selenium
  • The recent death of a loved one
  • A compromised intake of vitamin B6 and B2
  • An unpredicted illness of someone in your family

If you feel that you have postpartum depression, you should inform your doctor as early as possible. Then hopefully, they will be able to provide you with a suitable treatment. Two main treatments for postpartum depression include: 

  • Medication
  • Therapy

Either single treatment can be used, but both are more effective when used together. Moreover, it is also necessary to make some healthy changes in your daily routine to avoid postpartum depression. It can take some tries to find out which treatment is helpful to you. For this, you have to tell everything to your doctor about your feelings, changes in your attitude, and anything else you know. 

Medication

There are different medications for postpartum depression, but never forget that your doctor must have prescribed them. One of the most common medications is antidepressants. You can take antidepressants even while you are breastfeeding and thus help relieve symptoms of postpartum depression. During pregnancy, some of the antidepressant options that  can help include:

  • SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) but never forget to consult your doctors because some SSRIs can cause lung problems in new babies. 
  • SNRIs ( Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors)
  • TCAs ( Tricyclic Antidepressants)
  • Bupropion ( Wellbutrin)

Therapies

During therapies, you talk to psychologists, therapists, and social workers to learn different ways to relieve your depression and improve your feelings, behavior, and bond with your baby. 

Treatment For Clinical Depression

You will meet a counselor daily; he will ask you questions about your daily life, and for a good treatment without any bad impact on your life, you have to answer those questions honestly. He will teach you how to take things well and change bad habits to help you feel better. There are three common therapies to relieve postpartum depression:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

You and your counselor work well to recognize your problem and then change your behavior and thoughts affecting your mental health. 

Electroconvulsive Therapy

This therapy is used in extreme cases of postpartum depression and thus helps a lot in relieving it. 

Interpersonal Therapy

During this therapy, your psychiatrist helps you to understand in a better way how you behave with your partner, with your baby, or with your other children and how to improve this attitude. 

With proper treatment, most of the new moms recover from postpartum depression. Women should continue their treatment even after their recovery. If they stop it without getting recovered, the symptoms can reoccur. 

Postpartum depression is directly linked with reduced mother-child bonding and increased stress. It also affects both parents and causes different misunderstandings among them, which can lead to divorce. It is also linked with poor social-emotional and cognitive development later in a baby’s life. Postpartum depression affects the whole family. Some of these effects are:

  • Parent-child bonding
  • Relationship problems
  • Tension among relatives and friends
  • Social problems among children
  • Suicide or infanticide

Effects Of PPD On Mother-Child Relationship

Mothers with postpartum depression face challenges with bonding and functioning with their babies. The birth of babies demands some changes in the lifestyle of their mothers, such as changes in their attitude and sleeping patterns, and demands them to become more responsible. And mothers suffering from postpartum depression do not fulfill their demands, thus affecting the mother-child relationship.

Effects Of Postpartum Depression On Children

The symptoms of PPD indicate that it affects not only the mother but the child as well. Such symptoms usually arise during the early period of baby-during its both mental and physical development.  Even though mothers with postpartum depression meet their children’s needs less attentively, this introverted behavior of parents leads to children’s lack of interest in different activities. Also, it results in their poor communication with them. Some of the long term effects of postpartum depression on children include:

  • Poor academic performance
  • Increased behavioral problems
  • Increased chances of dropping out of school

Effects Of Postpartum Depression On Fathers

According to PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety And Depression Australia), relationships among parents become highly threatened or stressed by the mother’s postpartum depression. According to research:

  • 25-50% of men whose partners are suffering postpartum depression are experiencing postpartum depression.
  • In a research of 157 couples, men whose partners have postpartum depression are 2.5 times more at risk.

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