Understanding Postpartum Depression | E-Counseling.com

Understanding Postpartum Depression

Kristen Frescoe, MSc
October 21, 2020
Postpartum Depression

Chances are that you have heard of postpartum depression or PPD. While most of us know that there are women who experience feeling sad after they deliver baby – most have no idea of the severity and complexity of PPD.

What Exactly is Postpartum Depression?

Commonly confused with the “baby blues,” a general feeling of sadness and irritability experienced by many mothers after birth, postpartum depression is when these feelings of sadness are intense, prolonged and interfere with caring for the baby.

This condition impacts as many as 1 in 7 new mothers. In fact, it is the most common complication of childbirth.

Who is Most Likely to Develop Postpartum Depression?

PPD can strike any new mom. It can occur in both first-time mothers and mothers who have one or more children. It doesn’t matter if a new mom is married or single, and things like income, age, ethnicity, culture, and education make little difference in your risk of experiencing PPD.

What Puts a Mom at Risk for Postpartum-Depression?

  • Previous experience of depression or anxiety
  • Changes in hormone levels after childbirth
  • Family history of depression or mental illness
  • Loneliness, not having close friends and family around
  • Stress involved in caring for a newborn and managing new life changes
  • Having a challenging baby
  • Having a baby with special needs
  • Lack of family support
  • Health consequences of childbirth
  • The physical changes during and after pregnancy
  • Financial or employment problems
  • Caring for twins, triplets or higher order multiples
  • Isolation and lack of social support
  • Changes in the sleep cycle
  • Other emotional stressors

The Difference Between Baby Blues and Depression

It’s not uncommon for new moms to confuse a PPD diagnosis with the “baby blues”. Baby blues occur when new moms feel more unhappy than normal after delivering their baby. As hormone levels drop, moms can feel moody, sad, tired and generally “blue.” This is very different from PPD.

Unlike the baby blues, PPD doesn’t go away on its own and it impacts the ability to care for a newborn. The symptoms of PPD are much more debilitating and longer lasting. Any mom who is concerned about how she is feeling should talk to their doctor without hesitation.

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Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

The symptoms of PPD are different for everyone but may include:

  • Fear of not being a good mother
  • Not being interested in things you used to enjoy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Feeling anxious
  • Excessive irritability, anger, or agitation
  • Difficulty sleeping, beyond the typical new parent lack of sleep
  • Fear of being left alone with the baby
  • Feeling guilty or worthless, including blaming yourself
  • Sadness, crying uncontrollably for very long periods of time
  • Disinterest in the baby, family, and friends
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby (seek help immediately if you experience this symptom)

What To Do When You Suspect PPD

If you suspect you or someone you love may be suffering from PPD, anxiety or even the baby blues, the first thing to do is talk about it. Many moms don’t even realize what is going on. In many cases family members are the first ones to see the signs.

If you feel any of the signs of PPD, talk to your doctor right away. There is no need to suffer in silence as PPD is treatable

Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression

In theory, it sounds like it would be fairly simple to identify and treat PPD. However, the reality is that after the arrival of your newborn, in the sleep-deprived newness of parenting, things can get muddy. Mom’s often think their sadness or anxiety will eventually vanish.

If you experience these symptoms during pregnancy or after the baby arrives, talk to your doctor. If you recognize any of these signs in someone you love, encourage them to talk to a medical professional. Many women delay seeking treatment for PPD and suffer needlessly.

Postpartum depression is a real diagnosis and is very treatable. Be aware of the signs and symptoms. If you or someone you love are experiencing any of these, talk to a medical professional right away. There is no need to deal with PPD alone.

Kristen Frescoe, MSc

Kristen has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Forensic Psychology, she worked as a rape crisis counselor, inmate counselor. The research focus was on collecting data to assess the effectiveness of treatments for inmates living with PTSD. She founded a company specializing in Industrial & Organizational Psychology, applying clinical psychological practices in the business world. She is currently the Clinical Program Manager at Resility Health and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Rowan College.

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