Many women have feelings of sadness after childbirth, ranging from brief, mild baby blues to the longer-lasting, deeper depression known as postpartum depression. The suffering is sometimes so acute they commit suicide.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby.
Any new mother can be at risk of postpartum depression, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Global prevalence of this depression has been estimated as 100‒150 per 1000 births. It can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth.
Postpartum depression can negatively affect the newborn child.
Postpartum depression is a complication of giving birth. There is no single reason why some new mothers develop this mental health illness and others do not, but many interrelated causes contribute to the problem.
After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to this condition.
An individual is more likely to develop postpartum depression if he or she had a mood disorder in the past or if mood disorders run in the family.
The risk of experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may be higher in women who give birth after unintended pregnancies vs those who get pregnant intentionally, according to a study conducted in November 2022. The study was published in Social Science & Medicine.
Baby blues usually go away in three to five days after they start. The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer (more than two weeks) and are more severe.
Symptoms are of two types – emotional and behavioural. They include:
- Feeling down or depressed for most of the day for several weeks or more.
- Feeling distant and withdrawn from family and friends.
- A loss of interest in activities.
- Feeling sad, hopeless, and/or overwhelmed.
- Frequent crying or tearfulness.
- Trouble sleeping and eating.
- Feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness.
- Tendency to hurt self and baby.
- Feeling restless, anxious or irritable.
- Severe mood swings.
- Trouble bonding with the baby.
- Thoughts of suicide.
- Lack of interest in usual activities.
- Low libido.
- Loss of appetite.
Very rarely, new mothers develop something even more serious. They may have hallucinations.
“I just had this new baby, but I cried nonstop for, like, three weeks,” said American media personality, socialite, model, and businesswoman Kylie Jenner in August 2022.
I think the science is trying to catch up with what women are feeling, but women themselves are saying yea this is presenting.
The tricky thing now is we are having more and more women presenting with depression in pregnancy and also with delayed PPD.
— Sarah Hillbert-West, a Registered Midwife.
Postpartum depression is not the woman's fault. It is a medical condition that needs treatment to get better.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is the best validated treatment for postpartum depression and should be considered first-line treatment, especially for depressed breastfeeding women.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the mother recognize and change her negative thoughts and behaviors.
Medications known as antidepressants are used to treat PPD. There are many different classes and types of antidepressants, and each work a little differently.
Bupropion SR represents an effective and well-tolerated antidepressant for the treatment of PPD.
Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Citalopram and Sertraline are other medicines used to treat this mental illness.
FDA approved brexanolone, an analog of the endogenous human hormone allopregnanolone and the first drug specifically designed to treat postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can be very serious and require intervention. It may also dissipate over time, especially if the woman gets enough sleep and has someone who can help take care of the baby.
Intensive nursing intervention in the form of visits to new mothers by a nurse can help prevent the development of postpartum depression.
If someone has a history of depression at any time in her life or if she is taking an antidepressant, she has to tell her doctor early in her prenatal care; ideally, before she becomes pregnant. The doctor may begin treatment right after child birth to prevent PPD.
Doctors can detect the most vulnerable women early and prevent the illness before it strikes.
— Zachary Stowe, M.D., Emory University, Atlanta.
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- PPD is linked to ________ changes associated with having a baby.
- all the above
- Global prevalence of PPD has been estimated as ________ per 1000 births.
- PPD is a complication of giving birth.
- PPD is the woman's fault.
- Which is the best validated treatment for PPD?
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
- all the above
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Srikanth R
Srikanth R (author) on June 16, 2019:
You are most welcome.
Lorna Lamon on June 16, 2019:
Great article. This is a serious condition and I have treated women with this condition. Most importantly is an early diagnosis and the right treatment. Thank you for sharing.