9 Minutes

By THE BALANCE
Fact checked

For a new mother, the time after the birth of a baby is the most backbreaking and perplexing but at the same time a momentous period; new mommies experience a scrambled pack of stirring emotions, including all from pleasure to fear and anxiety during this time. Many new moms often feel puzzled because of the newborn’s undiscovered and strange habits and take these feelings so compellingly that they become victims of an unexpected illness, postpartum depression.

Postpartum is the period that begins after a child’s birth following changes in the mother’s body, including uterus size and hormone levels, returning her to a nonpregnant state. A postpartum period usually appears during the first six months of childbirth. Moreover, WHO (World Health Organization) describes that the postpartum period is the most critical and the most neglected phase during the lives of babies and mothers. Most newborn and maternal deaths occur during this period. 

Stages Of Postpartum Period

The postpartum period is divided into three distinct stages:

Initial or acute postpartum period: It usually begins during the first 8-19 hours of the baby’s birth. During this period, mothers are monitored by midwives or nurses as different complications can arise. 

Subacute postpartum period: Probably, it remains for about two to six weeks. During this period, about 87 to 94% of women report at least a single health problem. Different psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders, postpartum depression, and rare postpartum psychosis can also arise during this time. 

The delayed postpartum period: It can last for about eight months or more. During this period, the connective tissues and muscles return to a pre-pregnancy state, and the hair starts to grow back normally without any treatment. After the delayed postpartum period, 31% of women report long-term health problems. 

Postpartum depression is a medical state that affects many women after their child’s birth. In most women, giving birth to a new baby results in happiness and excitement to carry the baby for the first time. But at the same time, it causes depression, anxiety, and mental disorders in some women. These feelings make it difficult for them to care for their baby and themselves. It can appear anytime after the birth but commonly begins during 1-3 weeks of the baby’s birth. 

Furthermore, it has affected about 15% of women. Having postpartum depression doesn’t mean that parents do not love their babies. It’s just a mental condition and can be recovered with treatment. As it is normal for a mother to feel depressed, frustrated, or exhausted for months and weeks after having a baby, many people don’t realize they have a mental disorder. 

Like other types of depression, there is not any specific cause of postpartum depression. Still, post-delivery pain or other complications during a baby’s birth are the main reasons behind postpartum depression. Some other factors have a high probability of developing depression after pregnancy. It is normal for a mother to be depressed after having a baby, so there is no need to worry. There are many treatments, and with the help of those treatments, postpartum depression can be recovered easily.

Like other depression disorders, postpartum depression is very common and affects every one in seven women. Postpartum depression is a complex mix of behavioral, emotional, and physical changes during pregnancy and can last for a year. Moreover, it is attributed to the psychological, chemical, and social changes associated with giving birth to a baby. Women experiencing postpartum depression are at greater risk of suffering from depression later in life. 

It can be very shocking for you to hear that men can also develop postpartum depression. According to an estimate, 4% of fathers experience postpartum depression during the first year after the child’s birth. On the other hand, younger fathers or those who had any depression during the past times are more at risk. 

Statistics Of Postpartum Depression

Statistics of postpartum depression are still unknown. There are some commonly agreed-upon statistics about the number of women who develop postpartum depression annually:

  • If all countries are accounted for, then Postpartum depression impacts hundreds of millions of people annually. 
  • Researchers found that in Asian countries, the rate of postpartum depression is about 65% or more among new moms.

Furthermore, it is necessary to understand that these statistics only account for live births. Many mothers who have gone through stillbirths or miscarriages also experience postpartum depression: 

  • About 9,00,000 women who have had a stillbirth or gone through a miscarriage experience postpartum depression annually in the United States.

According to a study by CDC (Centers For Disease Control And Management), postpartum depression is more common among:

  • Native American women
  • Asian women
  • Black women
  • Women who are younger than 19 years old

Sorrowfully, it is believed that postpartum depression is more common than these statistics. Researchers believe that the postpartum depression rate is twice the number of cases reported and diagnosed. If postpartum depression is left unreported and untreated, how can it be accounted for in global postpartum depression statistics? 

In comparison to men, women are more loving, caring, and sensitive. This add-on sensitive nature can be taken as a reason behind the anxious thoughts about the health and fitness of a newborn baby. And these extraneously anxious and caring thoughts encircling the baby lead women to confront postpartum depression.

The birth of a baby comes along with various mental and physical complications, especially in a mother. It is quite a perplexing thing to stick to a single reason behind postpartum depression. Still, if we look at a broader perspective, then sudden hormonal changes after parturition can be marked as one of the significant reasons for developing postpartum depression. 

A sudden decline in the level of reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone after delivery of a baby can kick start postpartum depression resulting in rapid mood changes, crying spells, and disturbed sleep cycle. And in some cases, the weak social and family support system and social deprivation also play a role in developing and aggravating postpartum depression.  

Generally, postpartum depression gets triggered approximately after the parturition of the baby; however, the exact starting time varies in moms differently. The majority of sufferers recorded that the symptoms started in the first week after the baby’s birth. Many others say that postpartum depression can begin within 1 to 3 weeks after delivery, and even it can also occur any time from 1 to 3 years after the birth of a baby. Many factors can directly impact the inception point of postpartum depression and sustainment span.

What Causes Postpartum Anxiety?

About the words of Dr. Bennet, postpartum depression’s indications can prompt even in the last trimester of pregnancy and then can linger on for one year after childbirth, and the suffering period can vary. One of the research works by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) gives us a piece of precise information that postpartum depression can kick off after three weeks of having a baby. 

Changes in mood after a child’s birth is normal and are commonly resolved within 1-2 weeks. This is enough time for parents to change their lives and set a routine according to their baby, get comfortable in that routine, and for women to return their hormonal changes to normal. 

For most new moms, postpartum depression usually begins during 1-3 weeks of childbirth, and it will get more noticeable if the symptoms of baby blues worsen or do not resolve. However, some episodes of postpartum depression can also begin as late as your baby becomes a year old. As soon as postpartum depression gets diagnosed, the better it is. 

While dealing with postpartum depression, early mediation is necessary for the child’s cognitive development and the mother’s mental health. If symptoms of postpartum depression do not recover within two weeks, then you should see your doctor. 

Postpartum Depression Timeline

Symptoms of postpartum depression change with time. Some standard timelines for postpartum depressions include:

One to six months

This period is the hardest of all the periods because of the emergence of postpartum depression for the first time. This period is characterized by minimal sleep and mood swings. Most of the symptoms develop during this period, and three months is the average timeframe. 

Six months to one year

Although, rarely do women not develop symptoms for a year after a baby’s birth. Delayed symptoms make it difficult for mothers to accept that they are going through a treatable condition, and such women are less likely to seek treatment. 

One to four years

At this stage, many women are going through treatment, but a few can also experience postpartum depression symptoms at that time. Moreover, at this time, some couples plan to have another child.

People usually mix the terms baby blues and postpartum depression interchangeably, but they are not the same. That’s why many people think about how they are different. And also whether the term matters or not.

What Are Baby Blues?

Some women start feeling upset, anxious, and depressed after giving birth. They also behave angrily with their partners, with the new baby, or with their other children. They can also:

  • Feel difficulty in eating, sleeping, and making choices
  • Cry for no reason
  • Feel doubtful whether they can take care of their child properly or not

Comparison With Postpartum Depression 

Women with postpartum depression suffer feelings like anxiety, sadness, or despair, affecting their daily lives. Postpartum depression usually begins 1-3 weeks after the baby’s birth and can last for years, while baby blues usually begin 2-10 days after the baby’s birth and can recover within 1-2 weeks. 

Similarities And Differences 

There are numerous similarities and differences between postpartum depression and baby blues. Some of them are:

Similarities

  • Insomnia 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood fluctuations
  • Feelings of vulnerability, loneliness, and confusion

Differences

  • Postpartum depression lasts longer than baby blues as it lasts for 2-10 days, while postpartum depression lasts for a year or more.
  • Baby blues do not affect mother-child relationships, while postpartum depression does.
  • Mothers with postpartum depression develop thoughts to harm themselves or their babies. On the other hand, baby blues do not raise such thoughts. 
  • Mothers with baby blues worry about little things about their babies, while postpartum depression causes mothers to think whether they can be good moms or not.
  • Symptoms of baby blues are more common than PPD.
  • Baby blues are six times more common than postpartum depression.
  • Baby blues usually recover within ten days and do not require any treatment, while PPD can take years to recover.

The fixed period of postpartum depression fluctuates differently in different individuals as its starting time. According to Dr. Bennet, her postpartum depression lasted until her daughter was two years old, and after that, she again started finding colors in her life. 

Postpartum depression can drag on from weeks to months and, if neglected, can go long to even years. If postpartum depression persists for a longer period, it can worsen your mental health activity, and in such conditions, there are more prevalent chances of developing self-harming thoughts.

So you should try to take the best possible measures in the early stage of your disease to keep your mental health loss at a lower level and take care of your baby properly and proficiently. The most you can do is talk to a psychiatrist who will make you analyze your disease’s indications intuitively and enlighten your path towards a sound and depression-free mind.

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