Postpartum Depression: What Is It & Why Should You Care?

This post was written by a guest contributor.

Postpartum depression is a condition that is not widely known by many people. Usually reserved to private conversations in whispered tones between women, this serious illness is silently consuming the lives of families all across the globe.

Looking out for the well-being of you and your loved ones is no small task, and luckily there are many reliable resources – such as Mommy Authority – to help guide you along the everlasting journey of parenthood. There is no shame when it comes to health, especially when the mental health of your family and yourself are in question.

We are here to shed light on a mental health issue to raise the awareness and understanding of postpartum depression as well as educate people on how to best support those who may be suffering from this condition.

What Exactly Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, otherwise known as puerperal or postnatal depression, can be understood as the range of changes that new mothers experience when having a baby. Raging hormones, stubborn weight and sleep deprivation; this term encompasses the physical, chemical, emotional, psychological, and social changes that come with giving birth.

In the first 6 weeks following childbirth, known as the postpartum period, as many as 85% of new mothers experience a disturbance in their mood, while 10 to 15% of women experience significant depression.

There are three types of postpartum depression, which include:

  • The Baby Blues – stress-induced mood swings and anxiety which only lasts 2 – 3 weeks.
  • Postpartum Depression – feelings of depression and anxiety that continue for more than 3 weeks. Symptoms experienced at this stage are more severe than the baby blues.  
  • Postpartum Psychosis – the most severe (and thankfully, more rare occurrence) results in insomnia, hallucinations, and delusions.

Associated Symptoms

This is a list of a few of the symptoms that may be experienced by someone suffering from postpartum depression.

  • Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness and insomnia
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Negative thinking
  • The inability to enjoy anything
  • Depression (low, unhappy, tearful)
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • The contemplation of suicide

Why You Should Care About It

Postpartum depression not only jeopardizes the health and well-being of a new mother, potentially placing her life in danger, but it also has an impact on the immediate family. From children to parents to partners to siblings – family members experience the stress and anxiety of their loved one being depressed, as well as the helplessness of not knowing what to do to help. Postpartum depression also affects the newborn baby by increasing their likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression. Furthermore, if the child is female and wants to start a family one day, it could lead to another loop of mental illness when or if they give birth themselves.

Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

The following factors may increase your chances of having postpartum depression:

  • You have a close family member who is diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
  • You have experienced mood disorders prior to pregnancy or during a previous pregnancy.
  • You experienced a stressful event during pregnancy (the loss of a loved one, illness, abnormality etc.)
  • You are carrying out an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy.
  • You are currently abusing substances.
  • You are in your teens or over the age of 40.

Recognizing Symptoms In Others

Postpartum depression develops gradually and often mothers don’t realize they are experiencing the onset of this common condition. The support of a loved one will make the world of difference, so if you are concerned of the well-being of a family member or friend who has just become a new mother; keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Constant anxiety about their baby’s well being – despite logical reassurance.  
  • Frequent bursts of tears for no apparent reason.
  • An unwillingness to spend time with their baby beyond the necessary; having a tough time bonding.
  • A loss in a sense of time going by.
  • A loss in a sense of humor.
  • Displays of hopelessness and negativity.
  • A neglect of self-care.  
  • An avoidance of socializing, withdrawing from contact.

How to Offer Your Support

By taking the time to read this article and understanding postpartum depression, you are already one step closer to helping. You can make a difference in a new mother’s life by letting her know that she is not alone and that she does not have to fulfill any unrealistic ideas of being a ‘perfect’ anything. Let her know that you are there for her, and although you may not understand entirely, you will support her regardless.

Give her what she needs; it may be as simple as a warm and soothing bath, a quiet walk, or time alone to watch a movie. If she needs an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold – be there. If medication scares her, consider alternative solutions and meditation.

There is no easy way to deal with postpartum depression, but an understanding and an unwavering support is a great place to start.

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