When you consider the word “postpartum,” you might naturally think about the time immediately after a baby’s birth. But while many cases of postpartum depression might occur closer to birth, you might be surprised to find that postpartum depression can actually develop anytime within the first year after you deliver.
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 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 “ofte overhwelmed and often sad,” 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
It’s important to note that postpartum depression is clinically different than regular depression. Although those with PPD likely also notice the regular 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 pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Postpartum depression is more common, however, in those with a history of depression or mental health conditions.
If you’ve noticed some or many of these symptoms, 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.
Approximately 10 to 20% of new moms develop PPD, so you’re far from alone if you do develop it. Just know that help is available, and with Baby here, the future can be bright.
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.
- Sharma, A., Madaan, V., & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8(2), 106.