Welcoming a new child into your family can be a joyful event, but it can also come with challenges. Many new parents have a hard time feeling the happiness and excitement they’ve been expecting due to postpartum depression (also known as PPD). But how can you tell whether you have ordinary stress about your newborn or PPD? This article will review the most important warning signs of postpartum depression so you can recognize them.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to those of major depressive disorder, including persistent negative feelings like sadness, guilt, worry, or emptiness. Many of these feelings may be related to your child. For example, you may have difficulty forming an emotional bond or feel guilty because you’re convinced you’re a bad parent. Though this condition can be very difficult to grapple with, it’s treatable and usually temporary.
Is It Postpartum Depression Or Just Baby Blues?
The experience of having a child can be confusing and stressful, not to mention marking a major life change. So, perhaps it’s not surprising that many people experience emotional difficulties immediately afterward. Symptoms like mood swings, sadness, crying, irritability, and insomnia are very common during the first few days after childbirth.
Based on estimates from the National Institutes of Health, 50% or more of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Some sources put the figure at 70-80%. For most people, though, these symptoms resolve on their own within a week or two.
Note that PPD doesn’t always begin immediately after birth. A study from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that although symptoms typically emerge within the first six weeks following delivery, around 22% of people didn’t encounter them until eight weeks or more afterward. In some cases, PPD can show up months later. And roughly 11% of participants developed symptoms during pregnancy.
Recognizing and treating PPD as soon as possible may be a major factor in promoting healthy long-term outcomes. Any or all of the following may be signs of postpartum depression:
Depressed Mood Most Of The Day
Most people feel sad, depressed, or flat, at least some of the time. This may be especially true when you’re running on very little sleep and stressed about caring for a tiny, fragile human being. However, if this low mood is lingering for most of your waking hours, it could be a symptom of PPD.
Lack Of Pleasure And Enjoyment
Depression doesn’t always manifest in the form of active feelings such as sorrow. It can also appear as a lack of happiness (known as anhedonia), in which you’re no longer able to enjoy things that normally make you feel good. This may be accompanied by a lack of desire to do much of anything since you no longer expect things to give you pleasure. A formal diagnosis of PPD requires either this symptom or the first symptom to be present, along with at least four others.
Feelings Of Guilt, Shame, And Worthlessness
The desire to be a good parent is often tied directly to a person’s sense of personal worth and identity. Unfortunately, this means that postpartum depression can sometimes put a severe strain on your self-esteem. People with this condition often feel like “bad parents,” causing them to feel intense guilt or even to regard themselves as worthless.
Difficulty Bonding With Your Baby
This could be considered a particular example of the feelings of numbness, irritability, and anhedonia described above. But it’s worth singling out because it can be one of the most disorienting and guilt-inducing elements of PPD. Because your ability to feel positive emotions is disrupted, you may not feel the sense of affection and tenderness that you expect to feel for your baby. The child may feel more like a burden or a source of irritation, which in turn can provoke shame and self-recrimination.
Loss Of Energy
Excessive feelings of fatigue or tiredness may also be present in PPD. Dealing with a newborn child is often tiring, but the emotional drain of depression may make you feel even lower in energy than you’d expect based on your baby’s care needs.
Mental fatigue can be exacerbated by the fact that postpartum depression may disturb your sleep habits. For some people, this can mean an inability to fall asleep even when they’re exhausted and the child is snoozing. Others might find themselves sleeping far more than normal, to the point where they’re spending all day in bed.
Slowed Movement And Thought
Technically known as “psychomotor retardation,” this is a common symptom of depression in which your mind and body seem to be functioning more slowly than usual. You might feel “fuzzy” or “out of it” because it’s taking you longer to perform tasks, think things through, and form sentences. This could be due to depression-related impairment of your brain’s dopamine-based motivational system.
Not everyone whose cognition is disrupted by postpartum depression experiences psychomotor retardation. Others may have psychomotor agitation, in which mental and physical activity seems to be cranked up to higher-than-normal levels. This could make you feel anxious and cause you to have trouble sitting still. You might notice yourself pacing, talking too rapidly, suddenly starting and abandoning tasks, and experiencing racing thoughts.
Rapid weight changes are not uncommon in PPD. This disorder can suppress your appetite or lead you to eat excessively in an attempt to self-soothe. And feelings of lethargy, apathy, or restlessness might change your levels of physical activity. If you gain or lose more than 5% of your weight within one month, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.
Thoughts Of Harming Yourself Or Your Child
People with intensely negative feelings after childbirth may focus those emotions on themselves, leading to suicidal thoughts.* In other cases, feelings of despair or rage may be turned outward, prompting some parents to think of hurting their babies or older children.
*If you’re having thoughts like this, please seek help immediately — there are many resources available to help you through this, with volunteers ready to talk. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline through this link or by dialing 988, or you can text HOME to the number 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line.
Risk Factors For Postpartum Depression
How can you tell if you’re at risk for postpartum depression? This question can be a bit difficult to answer because the precise causes of PPD aren’t fully understood. However, researchers have identified several notable risk factors for postpartum depression, including:
- A prior history of depression or other mental illness
- Trauma from past sexual abuse
- A difficult, risky, or stressful pregnancy and birth
- Becoming pregnant at a young age
- Substantial hormone changes following childbirth
- Lack of social, financial, and material support
- Poor nutrition
You may also be more likely to develop postpartum depression when caring for your child is particularly challenging. If your infant cries excessively and is hard to calm down, or if they have difficulties with consistent appetite and sleep, the added stress could contribute to PPD. The same is true for medical conditions or pregnancy complications that result in special care needs for your child.
How Common Is Postpartum Depression?
When you’re living with postpartum depression, you may feel isolated and inadequate. People with this condition often feel guilt because they lack the emotions they’re expected to feel after bringing a child into their lives. You may find comfort in knowing you’re far from the only one going through this. A 2015 population sample estimated that 10-15% of mothers experience PPD every year.
Though popular conceptions of postpartum depression usually focus on the person who has given birth, this condition can also affect the other parent. Having a new child to care for can be an emotional and physical challenge for anyone. One study suggested that PPD may affect as many as 10% of new fathers and is more common when the spouse is also depressed.
Avoiding And Managing Postpartum Depression
If you think you might have PPD, or you’re worried you’re at risk for it, what should you do to keep yourself mentally healthy? The following factors are all likely to help:
- Staying in close contact with relatives, friends, and other sources of psychosocial support
- Healthy eating, including a diet high in vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, fish, and dairy
- Physical exercise — this may be even more effective if you begin an exercise regime during pregnancy
- Sleep habits that allow you to get enough rest
- Breastfeeding your child whenever possible
Treating Postpartum Depression With Therapy
A systematic review of 40 scientific trials found substantial evidence that cognitive-behavioral therapy was effective at both preventing and treating postpartum depression. When living with PPD, talking with a therapist may be crucial for restoring your mental health. Online therapy is often more manageable for new parents dealing with the everyday difficulties of caring for a new child. This method allows you to attend sessions from home rather than trying to fit a commute to a therapist’s office into your hectic schedule.
Online cognitive-behavioral therapy may be a newer treatment approach, but a substantial body of research shows that it’s every bit as effective as traditional therapy. Some controlled trials have shown that it can work specifically for PPD. Web-based therapy may be a convenient way to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression while improving parent-child relationships.
Below are some commonly asked questions on this topic:
What Are The Causes Of Postpartum Depression?
While the exact cause of postpartum depression is unknown, there are several risk factors that can make someone more likely to experience it. It’s also believed that the physical changes after giving birth such as a dramatic change in hormones levels, including estrogen and progesterone, can contribute to postpartum depression. It’s also believed that things like lack of sleep and changes to lifestyle can also contribute to it.
Some of the risk factors include prior mental health disorders such as bipolar disorder, family history of depression or mood disorders, multiple births, lack of support system, financial troubles, relationship troubles and If the baby is born with health problems.
It’s important to be aware of the fact that it’s also possible for partners and adoptive parents to experience postpartum depression.
How Long Is The Postpartum Period?
The postpartum period is considered the first six weeks after giving birth. There is a lot that happens during this period such as dramatic changes to your hormone levels once the baby is born. This is an important time to have health care for your baby and you when needed.
It’s normal for new moms to experience “baby blues” during the postpartum period. You may experience some mood swings as your hormone levels work at returning to normal. However, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between the “baby blues” and postpartum depression.
While the baby blues may cause you to feel weepy, emotional, and overwhelmed, this typically begins to go away within the first few weeks after birth. However, postpartum depression can be much more severe and last for months or longer. It can cause things like unwanted thoughts of harming your baby, suicidal thoughts, feeling like a bad parent, anxiety, withdrawal from family and feeling disconnected from your baby.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.
How Can You Prevent Postpartum?
According to the Postpartum International Support website, 1 in 7 moms will experience postpartum depression and 10% of dads will as well. There are no surefire ways to prevent it, but it can help to be educated about postpartum depression symptoms. It can also help to make sure your family and friends are familiar with the symptoms too. They may be able to recognize the symptoms in you if you’re not able to see it yourself.
Some other things that you can try include:
- Do your best to get enough sleep. This can be a struggle for new moms, but it can help to take naps when your baby is napping during the day if you didn’t get a lot of sleep overnight.
- Make sure you’re eating enough. It’s easy to forget to eat as you care for your baby. But your baby needs you to take care of yourself as well. If you’re breastfeeding you need to consume extra calories to make sure that you and your baby are getting enough nutrients. And, don’t forget to stay hydrated.
- Practice self-care. It’s OK to leave your baby with a trusted individual so you can have a little “me-time”. Read a book, go for a walk, or do a hobby that you enjoyed pre-baby.
- If you have a history of depression, you may want to pre-schedule some therapy session or time with your doctor to make sure you’re staying on top of any challenges as they arise. The same is true if you’ve experienced perinatal depression.
It can also help to know the risk factors such as having a family history of depression, history of other mental disorders, financial troubles, relationship troubles, or other health conditions. These are just a few of the risk factors and it is possible for people to experience signs and symptoms of depression or postpartum psychosis even without having any common risk factors.
Knowing symptoms for postpartum depression can help you to act quickly if you start to be suspicious that you’re showing symptoms. It’s best to address postpartum depression as soon as you can. Do not delay in getting help.
Is Postpartum Considered A Disability?
There are some cases when postpartum depression can qualify as a disability.
Is It Normal To Cry A Lot After Giving Birth?
It is normal to cry a lot after giving birth as your hormone levels are changing. It’s also normal to experience mood swings during the first few weeks after your baby is born. This is often referred to as the “baby blues”.
However, this can also be one of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. If you feel that your emotions are out of control and you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Never let someone convince you that it’s “just the baby blues” if you want to seek help.
It’s also important to know that the baby blues generally go away after a few weeks when your hormone levels have evened out. If you’re continuing to cry a lot, it could be postpartum depression.
Why Does It Smell Down There After Birth?
The smell that you may notice after birth is from the lochia that your uterus is shedding. It’s normal for this to last around 6 to 8 weeks. It’s normal for there to be a mild smell. If you notice that it has a strong odor or you’re unsure if what you’re experiencing is normal, reach out to your OB to make sure you don’t have an infection.
Are You Really Fertile After Having A Baby?
The process of producing milk and breastfeeding can stop ovulation which would remove your chance of becoming pregnant during that time. However, it is possible for women to ovulate after giving birth before they’ve had their first normal menstruation cycle. The timeframe on this varies. So it’s possible that you could get pregnant again shortly after giving birth, but it really depends on your specific situation.
Why Do You Have To Wait 40 Days After Giving Birth?
Many medical professionals suggest waiting for six weeks to have sex after giving birth. This can help prevent infection while giving your body a chance to heal from delivery and pregnancy. If you have any questions about this, you should reach out to your OB or health care provider.
Can Babies Feel When Mom Is Sad?
There are studies that show that babies can pick up on the emotions such as stress or sadness of their moms. These studies also show that the mother’s emotions can have a physiological impact on the baby as well. So, treating your own mental health and symptoms related to postpartum depression will help your baby as well as you.
Can My Newborn Feel My Emotions?
Some studies suggest that your newborn does notice the emotions and feelings that the mother is having.
Why Do New Moms Cry?
There are many reasons why a new mom may be crying. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Fluctuating hormones
- Feelings of disappointment, guilt or shame from birth experience
- Feeling like an unfit mother
- Baby blues
- Postpartum depression
If you have signs and symptoms of depression after giving birth, don’t hesitate in reaching out for help.
How Do Moms Feel After Birth?
New moms can have a range of emotions after birth. Some new moms experience feelings of joy and happiness while others experience symptoms of depression such as sadness or irritability. While many people expect that new moms should feel happy after birth, it’s normal to experience different emotions.
While it’s normal for moms to feel weepy, it’s helpful to understand the symptoms of postpartum depression so it will be easier to recognize if you’re showing signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of depression postpartum include:
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
- Unwanted or intrusive thoughts such as about harming the baby
- General thoughts about death
- Mood swings, anger or irritability
- Feelings of overwhelm or fatigue
- Lack of bonding with baby
- Feelings of guilt, shame or disappointment
- Severe sadness
- Thinking that you’re a bad mom or made a mistake in having a baby
- Withdrawal from friends and family
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and is available 24/7.
Signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis include:
- Strange beliefs or delusions
- Rapid chances in mood
- Trouble communicating
While postpartum psychosis is not as common as postpartum depression, it occurs in 1-2 women out of every 1,000 births.
If you have signs and symptoms of depression or postpartum psychosis, reach out to a mental health professional. If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts you can call 911, reach out immediately to family or friends, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
What are normal postpartum symptoms?
Many people experience symptoms postpartum, which are known as baby blues. Symptoms of this ailment include have trouble controlling your moods, being unable to go to sleep, feeling sad or upset, experiencing overburdened, and not being able to concentrate.
However, if a woman is experiencing postpartum depression, there may be additional symptoms present. These are anxiety and panic, feeling like life doesn’t matter, not being able to eat, having no energy, and in certain cases, feeling like they will harm their baby.
If you feel like you want to hurt yourself or your child, please seek help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Moreover, if you want to find out more postpartum depression facts, you can view more information on the Center for Disease Control site.
What are the signs a woman has PPD?
Some postpartum depression symptoms that you may want to take notice of are when a mom doesn’t have any interest in spending time with her baby, if she doesn’t seem to want to spend time with others, being unable to focus on tasks or think clearly, changes in sleeping and eating, and experiencing pain.
According to the Journal of Women’s Health, a woman may be at an increased risk of developing symptoms of PPD if they have been subject to abuse previously or they have substance abuse issues.
Something else that you should be aware of is when a mom is experiencing severe depression, mood disorders, or postpartum psychosis. These are serious women’s mental health concerns that need to be treated as soon as possible.
How long after birth can you get PPD?
A woman may experience PPD up to a year after a child’s birth. This means that you may not exhibit symptoms of this type of depression for many months after you give birth. It is necessary to get checked out by a doctor as soon as you determine that you aren’t feeling like yourself or are feeling depressed.
If you experience depression before you give birth and it still affects you after you deliver, you may be experiencing what is known as perinatal depression. There are a couple of risk factors that a woman may have that could bring on this type of major depression, including if there is a history of bipolar disorder or other mood disorders present in other families, and if they have had this depression in a previous pregnancy.
You can ask your doctor or therapist about support groups that you can attend related to PPD as well, if you want to interact with other women that have been through similar circumstances.
What are the stages of postpartum?
There are 3 stages of postpartum according to research found on the National Institute of Health website, which refer to the time after a baby is born. According to research, the first phase happens within the same day of giving birth. The second phase is thought to last around 6 weeks, and the third phase extends to 6 months after delivery. After this time, the body should be more or less back to a pre-pregnancy state.
If you still don’t feel like yourself after 6 months, you should talk to your doctor for more details. Depending on the symptoms you are expressing, you may have a number of mental disorders, including untreated postpartum depression.
How long are you considered postpartum?
You may be considered postpartum for up to 6 months, This is the point where a woman’s body may be mostly back to what it was before she became pregnant, in terms of hormones and physical changes. However, if you have postpartum depression symptoms, it is possible that they may occur up to a year after you have a baby.
How long do postpartum hormones last?
Postpartum hormones may last up to 6 months. After this time, you may feel more like you felt before you were pregnant, and you might also get your first period after baby. If you encountered pregnancy complications, you may want to talk to your doctor on for expert advice on when you should feel better after having a child.
How do I feel better postpartum?
When you are trying your best to feel better after having a baby, the key is to start a routine to get used to your new normal. Do your best to care for your health and wellness, including getting the proper amount of sleep when you can, eating healthy foods, and exercising. It is also a good idea to talk to your primary care provider, so they will be able to tell you if how you are feeling postpartum is indicative of health conditions, a mental illness, or something that is to be expected after having a child.
What is considered postpartum care?
The term postpartum care refers to how you should care for yourself and your body after you have a baby. This pertains to both your physical and mental health. For instance, you may need to work on getting a sense of normalcy after expanding your family, which can improve your mental health, and allow you the time to do things that are beneficial for your mental health, including exercising and getting the proper sleep at night. Something else you should consider is talking to both your doctor and a mental health care professional, for further advice on what you can do to take care of yourself postpartum.
How do I cope with postpartum?
When you have signs of postpartum depression, it is necessary to work with a doctor or mental health professional for the best treatment available. They can provide you with a depression screening questionnaire, which may be able to help determine what the next step should be, in terms of your care. If you are experiencing this type of mental illness, it will be necessary to get treatment for it.
What does PPD look like?
There are some signs that you may notice if a loved one is experiencing PPD. These include trouble sleeping, severe mood swings, being unable to think clearly, having a depressed mood, and having no interest in taking part in activities or hanging out with others. You can check out the American Psychiatric Association for more information on postpartum depression symptoms and what can be done to treat them.
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