Postpartum depression can occur in any woman after giving birth, or having a miscarriage or stillbirth. According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 9% to 16% of women will experience postpartum depression.
PPD can sometimes be confused with the “baby blues” which affects up to 80% of mothers. Baby blues can cause women to experience feelings of worry, unhappiness or fatigue after having a baby. The difference is that these feelings are mild, usually only last a couple of weeks and go away on their own. PPD can cause extreme feelings of anxiety or sadness and can interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her new baby. PPD can begin any time after childbirth, but women usually start feeling depressed one week to a month after delivery. For some women PPD can start slowly and then build for three to four months.
Common symptoms of postpartum depression include:
· Feeling sad, hopeless or empty
· Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
· Feeling restless and not being able to sit still
· Feeling unworthy or guilty
· Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
· Worrying or feeling overly anxious or overwhelmed
· Feeling moody and irritable
· Oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when your baby is asleep
· Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
· Eating too little or too much
· Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
· Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with your baby
· Persistently doubting your ability to care for your baby
· Thinking about harming yourself or your baby.
For some women there are higher risk factors that increase your chance of having PPD. The American Psychological Association estimates that up to 41% of women who have already experienced PPD will have it again with future births.
Risk factors for postpartum depression include:
· A history of postpartum depression
· Poor support from family, partner and friends
· High life stress, such as a sick or colicky newborn, financial troubles, or family problems
· Physical limitations or problems after childbirth
· Depression during a current pregnancy.
· Previous depression
· Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depression. It also increases the risk of dangerous psychotic behavior after childbirth.
· A family history of depression or bipolar disorder
While many women suffering from PPD do not seek help because of shame and stigma around PPD, or the belief that they should be able overcome symptoms on their own, these feelings can prevent them from getting the relief they need.
Since symptoms of PPD are broad and can vary between women, it’s important to contact your health care provider as soon as you start to experience any symptoms. Only a health care provider can properly diagnose whether your feelings are postpartum depression or something else. Women shouldn’t feel bad or be embarrasses about having PPD. Remember that many women go through the same thing and it’s treatable.
Be sure to read next week’s blog on Solutions to Handling Postpartum Depression.