Giving birth is an emotional experience for all parties involved. While having a baby can be one of the happiest moments of a woman’s life, childbirth is an emotional and traumatic experience for the body and it is not uncommon for some sort of complication to occur. It is not uncommon for women to experience a mild form of depression known as “baby blues” in the first couple weeks after giving birth. However, in the midst of the joy surrounding the birth of a new baby, some women experience a more severe form of depression known as postpartum depression (PPD). Style Magazines has compiled a list of five truths everyone should know about postpartum depression and how to better understand those suffering from PPD.
1. There’s a difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression.
Many new mothers experience “baby blues” after giving birth. Baby blues typically begin within the first couple days after delivery lasting up to two weeks post-delivery. Baby blues are usually characterized by mood swings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and crying spells. While up to 80 percent of new mothers experience baby blues, ten to 20 percent experience postpartum depression. PPD may initially be mistaken for baby blues, but the symptoms are generally more intense and last longer. Symptoms can develop within the first few weeks after birth, but can also develop up to six months post-delivery. Symptoms include difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing from your friends and family, severe anxiety or panic attacks, and intense irritability and anger. Many mothers suffering from postpartum depression can also experience feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy, and fears of being a bad mother. PPD often affects a woman’s ability to function and can worsen without medical attention.
2. Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth.
One in every seven women experiences a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can affect any woman regardless of her age or number of children she has borne. Like other emotional disorders, postpartum depression is not a weakness- it is an illness that can be recovered from with help from a healthcare professional and a strong support system.
3. Some women are more at risk for developing postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression can affect any woman regardless of race, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, but some women run a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Women who’ve had previous experiences with depression or bipolar disorder or experienced symptoms of depression during their pregnancy are at a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression. Medical complications during childbirth or a stressful life event during the pregnancy or shortly after giving birth can also trigger postpartum depression.
4. New dads can experience a form of postpartum depression known as postnatal paternal depression (PPND).
Recent studies have shown that approximately ten percent of new dads experience postnatal paternal depression or PPND. Symptoms can include increased conflict or anger with others, ongoing physical symptoms like headaches, digestion problems or pain, problems with concentration or motivation at work, and feeling conflicted about how he should be as a man versus how he actually is. Like postpartum depression, experts are unsure what triggers postnatal paternal depression, but studies have shown that men whose partners are experiencing or have experienced postpartum depression are more likely to experience PPND. Men who are experiencing symptoms of postnatal paternal depression should immediately seek help from a healthcare provider and/or support group.
5. Postpartum depression is treatable.
The most important thing to remember is postpartum depression is not a character flaw or weakness. It is important for a woman suffering from postpartum depression to have a strong support system surrounding her to provide emotional support. Studies have shown that women with supportive partners are more likely to have a speedier recovery from PPD. There are several treatment options for postpartum depression, including counseling or talk therapy and medication, both treatment methods can often be used together. A woman’s healthcare provider should always be consulted before beginning any type of medication, especially if a mother is breastfeeding.