What is Postpartum Depression?
Generally, women expect that the birth of a child will be a blissful and joyous time, and most often it is. Meeting their new baby and bringing this new little life into their home is an exciting event.
However, the period following child birth does not always conform to this happy and expected picture. In reality, feelings of sadness and periods of melancholy can affect a new mother, without warning.
Although this can happen to any woman from time to time after the birth of her baby, sometimes these feelings are sustained and begin to affect normal functioning.
New mothers experiencing lasting feelings of depression may be suffering from Postpartum Depression. Postpartum affects approximately 13% of new mothers and if left untreated, can have detrimental consequences.
Different Types of Postpartum Depression
There are three types of depression that can follow childbirth and they vary in onset, duration and severity: baby blues, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis.
The Baby Blues
The baby blues are a common occurrence among new moms and research suggests that it affects as many as 50% of all post-birth mothers. This type of depression usually occurs between 1 and 5 days after the birth of a baby and it tends to only last between a few days or at most two weeks.
During these days, signs of postpartum depression usually include feeling overly emotional, tearful, tired and suffering from fluctuating mood swings and inexplicable sadness. It is thought that the "blues" are caused by the fluctuation of the various hormones after birth, although sudden changes in sleep patterns and daily routines may also play a role.
For most moms, some well needed rest and a little time to adjust to all things new is all the treatment necessary for a full recovery. A little help with household and baby duties will also go a long in assisting a speedy recovery!
Postpartum Depression and Anxiety (PND)
Postpartum Depression is a more serious condition than the "baby blues" and the depression symptoms are more severe and longer lasting. Approximately 10% of mothers diagnosed with postpartum depression have experienced some form of depression during their pregnancy.
This type of depression usually lasts at least two weeks, but can remain for months and even years if left untreated (tending to worsen with each subsequent pregnancy). Postpartum Depression can become very serious and should be treated as soon as possible.
Postpartum Psychosis is the most severe of all the postpartum depressive illnesses. However, although this is the most serious, it is also the rarest, affecting between 1 and 2 in every 1000 women after childbirth.
Onset generally occurs within the first three weeks after birth, but may begin as late as three months after the delivery. Signs of postpartum psychosis may include:
- Hallucinations and/or Delusions
- Illogical or irrational thoughts
- Heightened or reduced motor activity
- Sleep disturbances such as insomnia
- Changes in appetite
- Extreme feelings of anxiety and agitation
- Periods of delirium or mania
- Rapidly fluctuating mood swings that may range from deep depression to euphoria
- Obsessive thoughts of the baby (a type of OCD)
- Thoughts of harming oneself or baby
Duration of postpartum psychosis depends on the speed of diagnosis and appropriate treatment. If treated appropriately and promptly the prognosis is generally good.