The time of pregnancy can be quite a challenging period in a woman’s life. During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through numerous changes which include changes in various parts of the body and a change in the hormonal balance. After successful delivery of the baby, the female body tries to grow back into its normal size functioning. This is when hormonal balance changes again and the body begins to change. Due to the severity of changes and stress, a lot of women are susceptible to postpartum depression, a form of clinical depression that occurs after delivery.
Subsequent to the childbirth there are a lot of responsibilities assumed by a woman in the taking care of the baby. There are regular disturbances in sleep due to the baby waking up, stress due to a strict routine which involves activities such as feeding, bathing, changing the clothes and taking care of self. All of this combined with the stress on the body contributes to postpartum depression.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
There are several causes and triggers that might develop postpartum depression in women. Some of the major causes are mentioned below.
- Hormonal imbalance- During pregnancy, the hormonal levels in women rises significantly. After birthing, they begin to drop suddenly. This sudden and stressful change can trigger postpartum depression in a woman.
- If there’s a history of mental health problems- Quite often PD develops if the woman already has had a history of mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Added to this, if there’s a history of depression in the family of the woman, even then she is susceptible to postpartum depression.
- Stress and problems- Difficulties that arise in managing and taking of the baby due to family problems, financial issues, problems with the husband or partner, emotional or traumatic events or substance abuse can trigger depression in a woman after childbirth. Additionally, women who give birth at a very young age and are not mature enough to care for the baby, sometimes suffer from postpartum depression.
- Diminished cognition- These symptoms involve a reduction in the ability to think clearly and make responsible decisions. Poor working memory and an inability to focus added with paranoia also happen during postpartum depression.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
While there is a general sense of fatigue and what is known as “baby blues” with childbirth, these conditions only last for a few weeks. If the severity of these conditions is strong and they last for more than weeks, then it can be a sign of postpartum depression. While the typical symptoms of baby blues such as lack of sleep, mild anxiety and lack of energy last for 2 weeks, the symptoms of postpartum depression begin in the first 4 weeks after childbirth and can last up to a year. Some of the common symptoms of postpartum depression are mentioned below.
- Completely cutting all ties with friends and family
- Unable to properly take care of oneself or the baby. Having difficulty in managing regular tasks or following a routine.
- Having difficulty in feeling relationships and bonds with people and the baby
- Extreme fears about not being a good mother
- Very severe mood swings including anxiety and panic attacks
- Insomnia and constant tiredness
- Compulsive thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
- Suicidal feelings and attempts at suicide.
If any of these symptoms or a combination of them appear during the first four weeks of pregnancy, then it is advised to see a doctor and get evaluated urgently. Through therapeutic treatments and medication, it is possible to beat postpartum depression and get back into the normal flow of life.
Preventing Postpartum Depression
Psychosocial and psychological support and intervention have proven to be successful in preventing postpartum depression. For severe cases of PD, medical treatment is also sometimes used apart from psychosocial interventions.
For mild to moderate cases of postpartum depression, proper exercise and a healthy diet often play an important role in the treatment. Added to this, proper relationship, support, and communication between the mother and father are vital in keeping postpartum depression away. One of the most important aspects of preventing postpartum depression is being aware of the various triggers and symptoms. The members of the medical community can extend their assistance beyond the delivery of the bay in making sure that mothers are protected against such mental health problems after childbirth and those who do fall sick are given proper care.
Treatment methods for Postpartum Depression
Psychosocial interventions and medication form the main components of treatment during PD. Together with exercise, diet and emotional support, postpartum depression can be beaten. Some of the major treatment methods are mentioned below.
- Cognitive behavior therapy- CBT is one of the most popular forms of treatment for a wide range of mental health problems. It is especially useful for treating a wide range of clinical depressive conditions. CBT has shown great results in women suffering from postpartum depression. Through healthy and supportive interventions, women have experienced faster recovery.
- Medication- There have been studies conducted which show the positive effects of medication on postpartum depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other kinds of anti-depressants are usually prescribed to women. Additionally, hormone therapy might be used to make women feel better during severe cases of depression. A cautionary note regarding medication is that their effects have not yet been understood during the period of lactation and breastfeeding.
- Other forms of therapy- There are other kinds of therapies that are often used in the treatment of PD. On the popular methods include ECT or electroconvulsive therapy. ECT is primarily used in extreme cases of depression where patients experience symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and extremely strong suicidal thoughts. Added to this, bright light therapy and intake of omega 3 fatty acids is often prescribed with postpartum depression.
Women seeking treatment for postpartum depression should ideally experience month by month improvement. They should, however, note that symptoms or severity of depression might increase just before or during the menstrual cycle due to the changes in the hormonal levels.