Though the topic only seems to get attention when a celebrity comes out to talk about it, like Brooke Shields or most recently with Hayden Panettier, postpartum depression is a very real thing. And I think it’s unfortunate that it takes a celebrity sharing their story for people to really start paying attention to any sort of mental health issue. As someone who has struggled with clinical depression, I realized that the reality of postpartum depression happening was very real. After having Squeaker and V, it wasn’t something that I dealt with but after the birth of Sweet B- postpartum depression hit me big time. I’m not sure why that would occur with one pregnancy but not the other two.
Having a baby can be very challenging for every woman, both physically and emotionally. The birth of a baby can trigger a mix of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. It is natural for many new mothers to have mood swings after delivery, feelings of joy one minute, and moments of sadness the next. But it can also result in something one might not expect like the onset of depression. These feelings are sometimes known as the “baby blues” — depression that normally fades away within 10 days of delivery. However, some women may experience a deep and ongoing depression which lasts much longer. This is called postpartum depression.
The earliest medical records about postpartum depression dates back to as far as the 4th Century BC. However, despite the early awareness about this form of depression, the postpartum sadness has not always been formally recognized as an illness. As a result, it continues to be under-diagnosed. There is no single cause for depression after childbirth. Physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors may all play a role. Unlike the “baby blues”, postpartum depression does not go away quickly. Very rarely, new moms develop something even more serious. They may stop eating, have trouble sleeping or develop insomnia, and become frantic or paranoid.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression affects 10-28% of new mothers. It can begin days, weeks, or months after delivery. Studies show that depressed mothers are less involved with their infant. They are also shows signs of inconsistency in terms of how they respond to their infant. They can be loving and attentive one minute, and withdrawn the next. In addition to the signs mentioned, some other symptoms of postpartum depression may include:
Excessive sleeping but still feeling exhausted
Loss of sexual interest
Crying spells without obvious cause
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of despair and/or worthlessness
Difficulty making decisions
Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression
Treatment for postpartum depression can be as varied as the symptoms. Some of the more common approaches to therapy or treatment include:
Creating a supportive environment for the mother;
Joining a support groups;
More often, postpartum depression is not recognized or adequately treated because some normal post-pregnancy changes which cause similar symptoms in new mothers. Moreover, some women do not tell anyone about their symptoms because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about being depressed about their pregnancy and childbirth when the normal response would be that of elation or happiness.
Early detection and treatment of postpartum depression is critical not only for the mother but for the infant as well. It can also help if the father or another caregiver can assist in meeting the needs of the baby while the mom is depressed or is still recovering from depression. The less exposure the infant has to the mother’s depression, the lower the risk of long-term problems in the child.
Research shows that infants of depressed mothers are at increased risk of behavioral problems, emotional difficulties, and delays in growth and language development. If the mother’s depression is not treated promptly, the baby can be greatly affected. Women with postpartum depression may feel like they are bad or inefficient mothers and might become increasingly reluctant to seek professional help. It is crucial to remember that hope and treatment are available to them. With a combination of proper medication and therapy, a woman can overcome postpartum depression and regain the ability to love and care for her newborn child.
Postpartum Depression in Fathers
New research suggest that even new fathers can get depressed after the mother gives birth. According to the study, about fourteen percent of mothers and around ten percent of fathers suffer from moderate to severe postpartum depression. More damaging than the more common form of “baby blues”, postpartum depression is more serious since it leads a person to experience sadness and feelings of emptiness, withdrawal from family and friends, and being sensitive to thoughts of failure.
Depressed mothers and fathers may also, in extreme cases, contemplate thoughts of suicide. These emotions begin two to three weeks after birth, and could last up to a year or longer if left untreated. Researchers in this study states that postpartum depression in fathers were strikingly high and more than twice as common than in the general adult male population in the US. As a result, they say that pediatricians must make a greater effort to screen both mothers and fathers for postpartum depression.
Researchers reviewed information on more than five thousand two-parent families with children aged nine months and found out that if both parents get depressed, their babies would less likely to be put to bed lying on their back, get breastfed, and more likely to have been put to sleep with just a bottle of milk. Pediatricians also noted in the study that babies should be put to sleep on their backs in order to prevent cases of sudden infant death syndrome. Depressed mothers were about one and a half times less likely to engage in preventive health behaviors, such as breastfeeding, placing the baby on his back to sleep or more likely to put their babies to bed with a bottle. These mothers were less likely to read to their babies, tell stories, or sing songs if depressed.
The study revealed that depressed fathers were less likely to sing or play outside with their child if both parents were depressed. The studies’ results suggest that where daytime interactions are concerned, depressed mothers and fathers engage in less positive interaction with their children, with a particular decrease in the level of enrichment interactions, including reading, telling stories, and singing songs. In seeing that the depressed fathers do not interact with their children, this is critical for them, since it is important to seek the need for interaction with children to develop cognitively and emotionally in a normal way.
While women show signs of sadness when they are depressed, men may be more likely to get irritated easily, be aggressive, and sometimes evena act in a hostile manner when they are depressed. In addition to not interacting with their baby, depressed fathers could be less supportive of the mother. When these signs are present, the best thing to do is to talk to a doctor, counselor, psychiatrist who can make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate medications to treat depression.
The Reality of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is not something that should be ignored, nor should it be marginalized. Postpartum depression is not something to be ashamed over, either. Seek treatment, seek help, talk to someone- open up about postpartum depression.
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