What is postpartum depression?
Depression is a common yet treatable mood disorder. The risk of depression is higher in pregnant women and new mothers during the weeks and months after having a baby. There is a difference between ‘baby blues’ and postpartum depression (PPD).
While ‘baby blues’ is a mild form of PPD experienced by many new mothers, PPD is more serious and lasts longer.
The differences between ‘baby blues’ and PPD are shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Differences between ‘baby blues’ and PPD.
|Baby blues||Postpartum depression|
Generally, it starts one to three days after childbirth
It can start days or months after childbirth
Lasts for up to 10 days to a few weeks
Can last for several weeks or months, if left untreated
You may get mood swings, e.g., you are happy one moment and cry the next moment
It can impact the ability to care for your baby, or yourself
You may feel anxious, confused, or have difficulty eating or sleeping
The symptoms are serious (as discussed below)
Usually resolves on its own
Needs a treatment as it does not go away on its own
What are the common symptoms of PPD?
The warning signs differ for everyone, but you may experience following symptoms:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities happening around you, including sex
- Disturbances in appetite, e.g., eating too much, or too less, than usual
- Experiencing anxiety or panic attacks
- Constant, frightening thoughts
- Feeling guilty or hopeless
- Mood swings including unnecessary irritability, anger or agitation
- Feeling sad, crying uncontrollably for a longer duration
- Feeling miserable
- Feeling of not being a good mother
- Fear of being left alone with the baby
- Sleep disturbances such as, inability to sleep, sleeping too much, difficulty falling or staying asleep
- No interest in the baby, family, and friends
- Experiencing difficulty in concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
- Getting thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
How does PPD affect mothers?
PPD can affect the mother in several ways as follows:
- It increases the risk of social isolation for the mother due to lack of energy, fatigue, and feelings of incompetence, worthlessness, and helplessness.
- Mothers are most likely to depend on their partners for support, placing an additional burden on intimate relationships.
- It can cause marital problems, e.g., disagreements, hostility, withdrawal of social support between partners.
- It can also result in decreased intimacy between partners, leading to further compromised mental the health of the mother.
Can PPD affect the child?
PPD is treatable; however, if left untreated, it can affect children. In PPD, the mother can behave inconsistently with the way she cares for her children. She may be loving one moment and withdrawn the next. She may avoid responding to children’s behaviour or may respond in a negative way. Based on the age of the child, he/ she may get affected by the mother’s depression in different ways.
What can you do about PPD?
- Don’t face this problem alone: Consult a psychologist or other licensed mental health provider; talk to your doctor or other primary health care provider.
- Openly share your feelings with your partner, other mothers, friends, and relatives.
- Do join a support group for mothers: Discuss with your health care provider for suggestions if you are not able to find such support groups.
- Seek help from a relative or close friend who can assist you in taking care of the baby.
- Try to get as much sleep or rest as you can: If you are not able to take rest even when you want to, discuss this with your primary health care provider.
- As soon as you get a go-ahead from the doctor, start going for walks and exercising.
- Avoid worrying about unimportant issues: It is important to be realistic about issues you need to think about while taking care of a new baby.
- Try to reduce the important responsibilities.
Remember, postpartum depression is not your mistake.
It is a real yet treatable psychological condition.
If you experience thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, it’s time to take action now.
Don’t wait! Call your doctor.
Early detection and treatment can help you feeling better.
- Depression in pregnant women and mothers: How children are affected. Paediatr Child Health. 2004 Oct;9(8):584-6.
- Postpartum depression[Internet]. Available at: https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression. Accessed on Feb 6, 2020.
- Letourneau NL, Dennis CL, Benzies K, Duffett-Leger L, Stewart M, Tryphonopoulos PD, et al. Postpartum depression is a family affair: Addressing the impact on mothers, fathers, and children. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2012;33:445–57.