Understanding Postpartum Depression & the Baby Blues
Giving birth can be the happiest time of a woman's life. However, a majority of women spend the weeks or months after giving birth in a state of depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) occurs in every 1 out of 7 women after childbirth. A majority of women experience something similar but less severe than PPD called the baby blues. Let’s investigate why depressive symptoms come about after giving birth and the differences between PPD and the baby blues.
The Baby Blues
When you are pregnant, your hormone levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone, are at an all time high. Once you give birth, those levels will quickly drop to their normal non-pregnant state. This sudden change in hormone levels may cause you to feel different physically. Additionally, the exhaustion from the birthing process and things that come with bringing home a newborn can take a toll on you mentally. A combination of these two can contribute what is called the baby blues.
70-80% of new mothers have reported feeling one or more of the symptoms that come with the baby blues. The most common symptoms include:
- Lack of Focus
- Feeling Overwhelmed
Some women find it to be similar to those they typical feeling during PMS. These symptoms, among others, will only last for up to two weeks after giving birth and then fade away.
The Science Behind Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression is much more complicated than the baby blues. The change in hormone levels can be one factor that contributes to PPD, but it takes a combination of multiple symptoms to be diagnosed with PPD.
One of the most common contributing factors is a personal or family history of depression. During this high-stress time, depressive symptoms may be more easily triggered if you have a history of it.
Another factor that can lead to PPD is major stresses in your everyday life. These can be things such as financial issues, marital problems, substance abuse issues, or anything that plays a major role in your life.
One final factor that can trigger PPD is not being prepared for the newborn. This could be because you are not physically prepared to care for a baby, have doubts about being a mother or you did not want a baby at this time.
The Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
For the 1 in 7 women who experience PPD, the symptoms will begin between 2 or 3 months after childbirth. However, they can happen at any time in the year after childbirth. These symptoms will last much longer than the only 2 weeks of symptoms that come with the baby blues.
Common symptoms include:
- Sadness and a lack of hope
- Feeling that you are unable to care for your baby
- Trouble feeling a bond with your new baby
- Lack of interest in things you enjoy such as foods, sex and spending time with friends and family
- Trouble with focus and memory
- Too little or too much sleep
- Unusual amount of crying with lack of reason
(keep in mind that every woman is different and may experience differing symptoms)
How to Diagnose Postpartum Depression
If you think you are having symptoms beyond the baby blues and similar to postpartum depression, the best things you can do is set up an appointment with your doctor or psychologist. They will provide you with the resources and tests you need for a depression diagnosis. The earlier you meet with a specialist, the sooner you will be able to get on your journey to recovery.