All you need to know about postpartum depression

All you need to know about postpartum depression

After waiting for 9 months for a baby’s arrival, most people would expect the new mum to welcome their bundle of joy with joy and gladness. This isn’t always the case, as many new mothers struggle with their mental health soon after having a baby. For the 11 -20% of new moms who get postpartum depression, the ‘baby blues’ could manifest as sadness, anxiety, loneliness and fatigue.

postpartum depression

So what is postpartum depression and how does it affect new mums?

Postpartum depression – more than just baby blues

Unlike the so-called baby blues, postpartum depression doesn’t go away on its own. It usually manifests as stress, anxiety, moodiness, tiredness, sadness and intense loneliness. These feelings can appear weeks to months after childbirth. Women who struggle with this debilitating condition will find it hard to cope or function from day to day.

Sadly, it can affect the wellbeing of both the mother and the baby as the mother is often unable to care for the baby when they are struggling.

According to this study published in JAMA Psychiatry, 1 in 7 women suffer from depression soon after giving birth.  The study screened 10,000 women who were 4 – 6 weeks postpartum. A number of these women were then invited for full psychiatric evaluation after the initial screening. Out of the 10,000 women, 1396 of them tested positive for postpartum depression.

The conclusion of the screening showed that 30% of the women had experienced depression before and during pregnancy. Also, almost half of the subjects had anxiety disorder, a condition that isn’t always linked to depression.

The prevalence of this condition shows that it is something to worry about.

Signs and symptoms of PPD

It is possible to suffer from postpartum depression while being unaware of the condition. In places where mental health isn’t given top priority, serious cases of postpartum depression could fly under the radar and remain officially undiagnosed.

Are there signs to watch out for? Yes, you don’t have to look too hard to see these signs:

·         Feelings of guilt and worthlessness

·         Being afraid of becoming a bad mother

·         Sadness with frequents bouts of crying

·         Sleeplessness or sleeping too much; inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep

·         Poor memory and forgetfulness

·         Mood swings ranging from anger to irritability

·         Fear of being left alone with the baby

·         Lack of interest in the activities they had once enjoyed

·         Anxiety and panic attacks

·         Eating disorder – eating too much or too little

·         Thoughts of harming oneself and the baby

·         Feeling miserable

You should seek medical help if these symptoms last for more than 2 weeks.

All you need to know about postpartum depression

Who is at risk of getting PPD?

Cheryl Beck’s published study on postpartum depression discovered 13 reliable predictors of the condition. This means that the following 13 factors determine the risk factors for the illness.

1.       Women who have a history of depression prior to pregnancy and childbirth

2.       Depression during pregnancy

3.       Anxiety before and during pregnancy

4.       Stressful life events happening before or after the pregnancy and delivery

5.       Declining/difficult marriage and romantic relationships

6.       Stress relating to childcare

7.       Poor or absence of social support during and after pregnancy

8.       Poor self-esteem which may or may not be pregnancy-related

9.       Hard-to-manage baby temperament

10.   Poverty or poor financial status

11.   When the pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted

12.   Single motherhood

Diagnosing postpartum depression

Women who experience the symptoms of PPD listed above should report to the doctor. To get a correct diagnosis, doctors will gauge the severity of your condition by asking about your symptoms to rule out other illnesses like bipolar disorder or psychosis. Additionally, there will be tests to make sure the condition isn’t actually hyperthyroidism.

Treatment options for PPD lists out treatment option for PPD to include:

1.       Postpartum depression therapy

2.       Postpartum depression medication

3.       Postpartum depression antidepressants

Postpartum depression therapy

Psychotherapy can be effective in the treatment of PPD. Since the women suffering from this condition usually feel isolated and alone, therapy can get them to open up and confront the problem head-on. The mental health professional will decide the best form of therapy based on the severity of the condition.

Postpartum depression medication

Mental health professionals will prescribe antidepressants on a case by case basis. These medications can help with mood swings and irritability.

Things to do if you have PPD

·         Seek professional help as soon as you notice the symptoms of PPD

·         Talk about it with your family

·         Don’t be afraid to ask relatives and friends to help you care for your baby

·         It’s okay not to be able to do everything on your list – finish the tasks you can and ask for help with the rest.

·         The best way to combat stress is to rest as much as you can. Ask friend and relatives to help you with the baby while you get some much-needed rest.

PPD is a condition that can wreck the mental health of new moms. With the right treatment and support, this condition will go away within 6 months.


JAMA Psychiatry

Read Also: Why new mums struggle at work: A guide to surviving the huge shift





Written by

Julie Adeboye