Understanding the particulars of postpartum depression can help you recognize it if it ever affects you or your loved ones, and reading up on findings about it can help decrease the stigma about seeking treatment.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD), also called peripartum depression or perinatal depression, is a form of major depression that typically develops postpartum, or after an individual gives birth. People with postpartum depression usually present with intense anxiety (possibly postpartum anxiety), sadness, or even despair that make it difficult or impossible for them to function normally after bringing their new baby home. These feelings usually last longer than “the baby blues”, which tend to resolve within two weeks. Risk factors for postpartum depression include a family history of depression, previous mental health challenges (e.g., bipolar disorder), first-time parenthood, and additional external stressors.
Symptoms of postpartum depression vary, as can the duration and intensity. However, when any of the symptoms listed below persist for more than two weeks, when normal functioning is affected, or if there are suicidal thoughts, seeking help is vital. If you think you may hurt yourself, reach out to 911 or call a hotline. In the US, you can dial 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or use the webchat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include:
Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
Feeling guilty or worthless
Becoming easily fatigued or irritable
Crying easily and often
Withdrawing from family and friends
Eating too much or refusing to eat
Sleeping too much or having trouble sleeping
Losing interest in activities previously enjoyed
Experiencing memory problems or difficulty making decisions
Neglecting the baby
It’s also important to note that postpartum depression can affect anyone who has recently welcomed a baby into their life, regardless of gender. This includes partners of the person who gave birth as well as adoptive parents.
Key Facts About Postpartum Depression
One factor to keep in mind before examining the numbers about postpartum is that many cases go unreported—so numbers are likely even higher in reality. There’s significant stigma around postpartum depression, so parents or caregivers who experience it may be hesitant to tell their feelings with anyone—much less seek treatment. The reason for this is usually that people don’t want others to view them as bad parents. That’s why it’s important to remember and talk about how postpartum depression is a clinical disorder that has nothing to do with one’s ability to be a good caregiver, and that those experiencing it deserve support, care, and get treatment. Here are some key facts to know.
Postpartum Depression Is Common
According to an article on the Johns Hopkins Medicine website, as many as 85% of women will experience mood disturbances after delivery, one in seven may experience postpartum depression, and 10 to 15% may experience severe postpartum depression. 0.1 to 0.2% may experience postpartum psychosis, for which those who have a medical history of psychotic or bipolar disorders are more at risk. When it comes to adoptive parents, some research has shown that rates for postpartum depression among this population may be similar to rates among biological parents.
Symptoms Can Start Early
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about half of women who end up receiving a postpartum depression diagnosis experience symptoms during their pregnancy. It’s another reason that breaking down the stigma around postpartum depression is helpful, so that people can feel empowered to seek treatment as soon as they notice postpartum depression symptoms.
Treatment Is Effective, But Many Don’t Seek It
According to the CDC, over half of pregnant people with depression do not receive treatment. One obstacle may be that awareness about the realities and likelihood of postpartum depression is low. This can lead those experiencing symptoms to chalk them up to sadness or nervousness about parenthood and not seek treatment. Another may be that the medical system may not treat postpartum depression as seriously as it does other conditions, or as it should. Studies from the CDC also show that about one in five pregnant people were not asked about depression during a prenatal visit. That’s why education about postpartum depression may help more people receive the treatment they need.
Treatment For PPD
Postpartum depression is a serious condition, and those affected by it should get appropriate help as soon as possible. Therapy is a common treatment option for those experiencing postpartum depression. Either cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy may be used by the treatment provider, since both have been shown to be effective for postpartum depression.
For new parents, finding the time and the appropriate childcare to leave the house for an in-person therapy appointment can seem daunting or even impossible. That’s why some may choose to seek treatment virtually. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, for example, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat. Since research suggests that online therapy for postpartum depression offers similar benefits to the in-person variety, it can be a viable treatment option for those experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or other mental health challenges. A therapist can identify symptoms and suggest ways to manage and improve them over time. Their job is to provide a safe, judgment-free space where you can sort out your feelings and take care of your own mental health.
Why Treatment For PPD Is Important
Postpartum depression can have negative consequences for the parent experiencing it as well as for their partner or other loved ones and their child. Untreated postpartum depression can lead to worsening depression and anxiety, in addition to physical health challenges. As a 2019 study puts it: “The results suggest that postpartum depression creates an environment that is not conducive to the personal development of [caregivers] or the optimal development of a child. It therefore seems important to detect and treat depression during the postnatal period as early as possible to avoid harmful consequences”.
If you or a loved one is experiencing the “baby blues” for an extended period, living with a related mental health concern (e.g., bipolar disorder, postpartum psychosis), or otherwise exhibiting symptoms of depression, consider seeking help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which country has the highest rate of postpartum depression?
Is PPD more common in first time moms?
What puts a woman at higher risk for PPD?
What is the leading cause of postpartum death?
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What are the biggest factors of postnatal depression?
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Does breastfeeding reduce risk of PPD?
Is PPD more common with boys or girls?
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What postpartum symptoms should not be ignored?
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