Postpartum depression is a common condition that affects an estimated 10 percent of new mothers, causing symptoms of sadness and anxiety during this new and often overwhelming experience. This condition often develops as a result of the physical, emotional, hormonal and life changes that take place after childbirth and as a woman adjusts to motherhood.
While most women experience a wealth of emotions in the hours and days after giving birth, postpartum depression is defined as a set of depression-related symptoms that last for more than two weeks. Patients experiencing this condition, should tell their doctor.
Risk Factors of Postpartum Depression
Although postpartum depression can affect any new mother, certain women may be at a higher risk of experiencing symptoms of this condition, including those who have a personal or family history of depression or a lot of stress in their lives. Having a sick or colicky baby can also increase a woman's risk of developing postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Some women may experience mild symptoms of postpartum depression, known as baby blues, which may include:
- Mood swings
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
These symptoms usually last for only a few days or weeks and do not require any treatment. More severe cases involve symptoms that last longer and may interfere with the care of your baby, such as:
- Severe mood swings
- Irritability and anger
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious condition that involves symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia and actual attempts to harm yourself or your baby. This condition requires immediate medical treatment in order to preserve the health of the mother and child.
Treatment of Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression depends on the severity of symptoms, but may include counseling, antidepressants or hormone therapy. Mild cases may not require any treatment at all. For most women, postpartum depression subsides within a few months, although it can last up to a year. A decision about which treatment is best for the patient will be made after a thorough evaluation of their condition.
It is important for women with postpartum depression to take care of themselves and receive the support they need in order to recover from this condition and be able to fully enjoy time with their baby.