When you consider the word “postpartum,” you might naturally think about the time immediately after a baby’s birth. But while the clinical definition of postpartum depression specifies that it begins in the weeks immediately following delivery, many parents begin to notice or recognize symptoms months after delivery.
Why does postpartum depression develop?
There is no one single cause of postpartum depression (PPD) – it can actually be due to a number of different factors.
- Hormones: They say that pregnancy is a rollercoaster, and when it comes to hormones, that’s absolutely true. After the massive drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone that happens after childbirth, it’s very common to notice fatigue and sadness, as well as other bodily effects that can contribute to postpartum depression.
- Life changes: Even after dealing with pregnancy and the changes it brings, bringing a baby home can present a whole new set of challenges. It can take some time to get used to all of the new responsibilities that a baby brings. If you feel overwhelmed from time to time, you can consider yourself part of the majority. However, when “occasionally overwhelmed” turns into “definitely depressed,” it’s time to talk to your healthcare provider.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
As is the case with clinical depression, certain symptoms can be red flags for PPD. Women with PPD generally experience some combination of these symptoms, but many only experience a few of them. These symptoms include:
- Difficulty bonding with the new baby
- Withdrawing from a partner
- Feeling uncontrollable anxiety, worry, or fear, even when things are going okay
- Eating or sleeping too little or too much
- Struggling to concentrate, think clearly, or make decisions
- Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
- Experiencing severe mood swings
- Worrying about being a bad mother
- Thinking about harming themselves or their babies
- Thinking about death or suicide
Although those with PPD likely notice the common symptoms of depression, postpartum depression is generally only diagnosed as such when the depression symptoms come in conjunction with or are the result of hormonal, physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes due to childbirth and motherhood. Postpartum depression is more common, however, in those with a history of depression or other mental health conditions.
If you notice some or many of these symptoms after delivery, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. There are a number of different ways clinicians treat PPD, but no matter which one your healthcare provider thinks is best, it’s much easier to get through it when you have help.
And if you are having thoughts of self-harm, the United States’ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great place to turn. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Postpartum depression.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, August 11 2015. Web.
- “Postpartum Depression.” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, February 27 2017. Web.
- “Postpartum Depression Facts.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institutes of Health. Web.