Childbirth can trigger several powerful emotions ranging from joy and excitement to fear and anxiety. In some instances, it can trigger depression. As a new mum, you may experience “baby blues” that is characterized by anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping. These typically begin after the first few days of childbirth and may last for up to two weeks. However, you may also experience more severe long-lasting depression known as postnatal depression. This condition is common in new mothers, and can also affect fathers or partners.
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What Is Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal depression, which is also known as postpartum depression, is a complex mix of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes that affect new mothers. Unlike baby blues, postnatal depression lasts more than a few days. If you experience the symptoms discussed below for weeks after giving birth, you should seek help. It becomes more evident that you are suffering from postnatal depression if the symptoms affect your day-to-day life.
What Causes Postnatal Depression?
Not one factor causes the condition. However, one or more of the following issues may be responsible.
- A history of mental health conditions like bipolar disorder or depression
- Hormonal imbalance
- Serious health problems
- Excessive worrying about parenting
- A weak support system
- Marital or financial challenges
- The occurrence of a problematic event during pregnancy
- An unwanted or difficult pregnancy
- Being in an abusive relationship
- Having a baby with special needs or health issues
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Inadequate and unhealthy diet
Even if you do not have the above trigger factors, remember childbirth alone is a life-changing event that can trigger depression. It takes time to adjust to parenting, and being a new parent can be exhausting and stressful.
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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Postnatal Depression?
When you have psychological issues, a third party should observe the signs and symptoms for you. If you do it for yourself, you might downplay or ignore the symptoms. Reach out to an expert if you experience the following symptoms or see them in someone else.
- Persistent sadness
- Constantly feeling guilty
- Loss of interest in activities you would usually enjoy
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Constant fatigue
- Rapid mood swings
- Extreme anxiety and agitation
- Trouble sleeping. This could present as too much sleep or not sleeping enough
- Thoughts about harming yourself or the baby
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering things
- Difficulty making decisions
- Withdrawing from people
What Are the Treatment Options for Postnatal Depression?
With early diagnosis, you can treat postnatal depression and continue with your daily life. Treatment options can be medicinal or non-medicinal.
If the depression becomes severe, a GP can sometimes use medicinal treatment. But, this option may not be necessary if the condition is detected early.
Mainly, your doctor might recommend antidepressants to help you sleep better and cope with feelings of hopelessness and irritation. Hormone therapy can also help you get out of depression. With hormone therapy, a physician will often administer estrogen alongside antidepressants.
However, some risks may arise with the use of hormone therapy, so ensure you first talk to your doctor about what is safest for you. Keep an open mind, and remember, it might take a little experimentation to master what works best for you.
Some of the non-medicinal treatments used to treat postnatal depression include the following:
- Cognitive therapy to help you work out your thought pattern
- Practicing a healthy sleeping habit
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing mindfulness and meditation
- Getting out into the sunshine
- Joining a therapy group
- Eating well and routinely. Primarily, your medic will also recommend you take a healthy diet.
- Talking to family and friends
- Engaging in activities that you enjoy
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How Do You Get Help for Postnatal Depression?
Talk to your GP if you think that you are undergoing depression. Most healthcare providers have adequate training to detect postnatal depression. In instances where they cannot help you, they will refer you to someone who can. Do not struggle alone. Seek the help that you need. Remember, there is a range of support available and that being depressed does not mean that you are a terrible parent.
Postpartum depression can interfere with how you bond with your baby. You might experience inconsistencies in developing a healthy connection with your newborn. Else, you might also become less social and stop taking care of yourself. These will only make the situation worse.
To help cope with postpartum depression, lean on your loved ones for support when you need it, and create time to cater to your physical and emotional well-being. If you are not up to chores and other physically and emotionally demanding activities, let them go. Use your energy to cater to basic needs for you and the baby.
It’s no longer baby blues if it negatively affects your daily life and continues for weeks. Remember, you can also help someone else going through it by seeking help for them earlier. If you are seeking medical assistance to deal with postpartum depression effectively then you are just where you have to be.