Postpartum Depression: Knowing The Statistics
Content warning: This article mentions suicide and suicidal thoughts and may be triggering to certain individuals.
Having a new baby is often a pleasing and beautiful moment for both expecting parents and their families. The preparations for the big day are commonly extensive, from setting aside a new room to the baby shower and many other exciting activities for the new baby. Yet, the moment shortly after delivery may be stressful for the new parent, as postpartum depression statistics reveal. Childbirth is regarded as a major emotional and physical stressor in a new parent’s life.
Most women experience some changes in their mood shortly after delivery. These changes are normal and regarded as “baby blues.” Baby blues usually start within the first three days after childbirth and may last for two weeks. For some women, these changes may last even longer.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe, intense, and long-lasting form of “baby blues” that can arise before or after the birth of a child. The term perinatal depression is also used to describe major depression that occurs before the birth. These conditions are commonly experienced, with one in seven women experiencing depression within the first six months after delivery.
People with postpartum depression usually present with intense anxiety (possibly postpartum anxiety), sadness, or despair that makes them have trouble functioning normally after giving birth. These feelings usually last longer than baby blues, which tend to resolve within two weeks after delivery. Postpartum depression may take various forms, known as postpartum mood disorders, and the diagnosis can be missed for a long time.
PPD is a complex mix of emotional, physical, and behavioral changes. These experiences have been attributed to the chemical, social, and psychological changes that surround childbirth for many women.
Postpartum depression can also affect fathers, partners, adoptive parents, and other family after welcoming new babies into their lives. Hence, it’s not only a women’s health issue. PPD doesn’t spare any race, culture, or class; anyone who welcomes a child into their life may experience these distressing mood disturbances, and this also includes adoptive parents.
Factors That Predispose You
There are physical and emotional factors that may predispose one to an increased risk of experiencing depression after welcoming a child. It is believed to be largely caused by the interaction between genetic and environmental conditions. The risk factors for PPD include the age of the mother at the time of pregnancy, history of depression or bipolar disorder prior or during pregnancy, birth complications from a previous pregnancy, the number of children before the pregnancy, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, history of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), loneliness, lack of social support, low socioeconomic status, and marital conflict. Also, people with infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or those treated for infertility, or who have conditions such as thyroid disorders or type I or II Diabetes are also at risk of developing PPD.
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms of postpartum depression vary, and the duration and intensity of these symptoms can vary from person to person. Hence, a careful monitoring of symptoms by the new parents is important to help them take the next steps to recovery.
When the following postpartum depression symptoms persist for more than two weeks after delivery, normal functioning is affected, or 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 U.S., 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.
The symptoms of postpartum depression can include:
Experiencing low mood or being restless
Being sad or overwhelmed
Feeling guilty or worthless
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
Lack of energy or loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
Lack of care or refusing to breastfeed the baby
Having memory problems or difficulty making decisions
Neglecting the baby or holding the belief that the baby is someone else’s
Knowing The Numbers
Though there are missed cases, studies have shown that up to 85% of women will experience mood disturbances after delivery, one in seven women may experience depression after delivery, 10 to 15% may have a more severe postpartum depression, and 0.1 to 0.2% may face a rare form of postpartum psychosis. Most women who develop postpartum psychosis have a medical history of psychotic or bipolar disorders, and it should be treated as a medical emergency because it has a greater risk of suicide and infanticide than other conditions.
Exactly how many women suffer with postpartum depression symptoms is unknown. However, about 50% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression have their first episode of depression after delivery. Also, about 50% of women diagnosed with postpartum depression experience symptoms of depression prior to the birth. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, more than 400,000 infants are born to depressed mothers every year.
Studies have shown that those with a history of depression, mood disorders, or anxiety disorders are at higher risk to develop postpartum depression, and there is a genetic risk factor that can be detected with a blood test. A history of this condition also creates a high risk of postpartum depression.
Also, about half of women with postpartum depression first began experiencing symptoms of depression during pregnancy. This emphasizes the need for parents to speak with healthcare providers about depression symptoms during the pregnancy. When the symptoms of postpartum depression are observed early, it can be quicker to get treatment and recover.
Postpartum Depression New Fathers
Postpartum depression isn’t limited to new mothers; new parents in general can also experience depression. Studies show that 10% of new fathers faced depression, presenting with depressed mood, fatigue, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, anxiety, or sadness.
Also, half of the new fathers whose partners had postpartum depression develop depression themselves. The likelihood of new fathers experiencing postpartum depression is greater in young fathers, those with a previous history of depression, financial struggles, stressful life events, or bad relationship experiences in the past.
According to research in 2010, 4% of new fathers experienced depression within the first year of welcoming their babies. And one out of five fathers experienced one or more depressive episodes by their child’s 12th birthday.
New parents with symptoms of anxiety or depression during their partner’s pregnancy or within the first year after delivery should seek help. At BetterHelp, competent professionals are always ready to meet your needs and help you through these challenges.
Treatment Of Postpartum Depression
Identifying the symptoms of postpartum depression early is essential for a prompt and swift recovery. It also significantly reduces risk to the parents and baby and the can prevent future episodes.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition, and people affected by it should get appropriate help as soon as possible. Treatment options include medication, therapy, or both. The forms of therapy commonly used are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy, as these are proven to be effective in treating postpartum depression. Both forms of therapy are available online, though platforms like BetterHelp. Online therapy is more accessible and convenient, which may be appealing to new parents who are pressed for time. Online therapy has also been proven just as effective as in-person therapy.
Leaving someone with untreated postpartum depression poses more challenges to the mental health of the new parents, the baby, and their family. PPD can severely affect parent-to-child bonding, causing neglect of personal care and care for the baby. Failure to breastfeed, touch, or a belief that the baby is someone else’s can increase the chance of harm to the baby. Hence, parents with severe PPD shouldn’t be left alone to care for their infants for long periods.
Poorly treated or untreated individuals with PPD may be dangerous to themselves and others. Postpartum depression may become a psychosis with delusions, hallucinations, or self-harm attempts. Also, children of parents with untreated postpartum depression may later develop behavioral or emotional problems like excessive crying, eating and sleeping difficulties, or delayed language development.
Prevention Of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can pose many challenges to new parents and their families. However, postpartum depression may be prevented by psychological and supportive care to new parents following childbirth. Supportive care may include peer support, home visits, and interpersonal therapy.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends screening susceptible parents for symptoms, especially those with a personal or family history of depression to lower the risk for postpartum depression. Also, behavioral health resources are recommended for those with a positive screen.
Postpartum depression is a mental health condition in new parents that can require urgent medical intervention and emotional support. Because symptoms and intensity vary within individuals, it can be difficult to recognize early. Hence, proper screening and assessment during pregnancy and after childbirth may help in reducing its frequency.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, it’s important to seek help. Several forms of psychotherapy have been proven effective in treating postpartum depression. And you no longer have to travel to a therapist’s office to get the help you need. Online therapy is an effective and accessible option for new parents experiencing PPD. Connect with a licensed therapist today through BetterHelp.