How Do You Know If You Are Suffering From Postpartum Depression?
Having a new baby at home is stressful. There is sleep deprivation, new responsibilities, and very little time for yourself, so it is no surprise it feels like you are on an emotional rollercoaster.
The baby blues, the least severe form of postpartum depression, are normal and affect 70 to 80 percent if new mothers, this according to the American Pregnancy Association. But when mood swings and depressive symptoms don’t go away after several weeks or get worse, you might be suffering from full-blown postpartum depression (PPD).
Here is everything you need to know about PPD, including prevalence, symptoms, coping, treatment, and so much more.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder affecting women after childbirth. It causes symptoms of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion, and all these make it hard for new mothers to care for themselves and their babies.
PPD is different than the baby blues because lingers on and worsens. While the baby blues resolve within a couple of weeks after they start, which is usually within a few days after giving birth, PPD is long-lasting and can be harmful if not managed and treated.
According to the American Psychological Association, one in seven new mothers will experience PPD. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of women affected by PPD differs depending on a new mother’s age or race–as some groups have a higher risk.
How Is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?
There is no one test to make a diagnose PPD. Your doctor will rely on your family history, your health history, and current symptoms you are experiencing.
Your doctor also wants to determine the severity of symptoms and will ask whether you have had feelings of hurting yourself or others.
Your doctor may order tests, including lab work, to rule out other conditions. Your doctor will also want to confirm that you are not suffering from another mental health condition, such as postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare psychiatric emergency that causes racing thoughts and elevated mood, depression, severe confusion, hallucinations, and delusions, setting in during the first two weeks after childbirth. Treatment usually requires hospitalization, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers.
Postpartum Depression Does Not Discriminate
Although certain groups of people are at a higher risk for depression, PPD does not discriminate. It does not care if new mothers are rich or poor, healthy or have health issues, have had other pregnancies, or how old new mothers are.
PPD arrives unannounced, bringing with it sadness, hopelessness, and anger, driving a wedge between you and the people you love. And this was the case for celebrity mothers, Brooke Shields, Drew Barrymore and Chrissy Teigen.
Celebrities Affected by Postpartum Depression
- Brooke Shields: Model and actress, Brooke Shields was one of the first celebrities to speak up about PPD. In her 2005 book, Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, and she shares that after giving birth to her daughter in 2001, she found herself staring out a window thinking that she didn’t want to live anymore.
- Drew Barrymore: In a 2015 interview with People magazine, Drew Barrymore revealed that she struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child. The experience lasted about six months, and she described it as being “under the cloud.”
- Chrissy Teigen: Model and wife to the singer, John Legend, is the latest celebrity voice for postpartum depression. In a 2017 essay in Glamour magazine, she shares that PPD does not discriminate and can affect any new mother.
Who Is Most at Risk for Postpartum Depression?
There are specific risk factors associated with an increased risk of PPD. Risk factors of PPD include:
- Living in poverty
- Previous history of mental health difficulties, especially depression
- Lack of emotional support
- A difficult or painful birth
- Previously having suffered from PPD
- Being a young or teen mother
- Fearing childbirth
- Having a special needs child
- Having an emergency Caesarean section (C-section)
- Having multiples or a premature birth
- Having depressive symptoms during pregnancy that go untreated
- Stressful life events during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth (i.e., the death of a loved one or personal illness)
How Do You Prevent Postpartum Depression?
Researchers do not have an exact way determine how new mothers will respond to childbirth and the challenges of motherhood. Therefore, there are no specific ways to prevent PPD.
However, there are things women can do during pregnancy, and after their child is born to lessen the chance they will develop PPD, or in the least, play a role in the number of symptoms they have.
Researchers think certain emotional fluctuations increase a woman’s risk for PPD and managing those can reduce the potential for its development or significance.
One 2016 study led by researchers from the University of Antwerp, suggests that assessment of emotional factors during pregnancy can help obstetricians and nurse practitioners assess pregnant women for prenatal depression, ease their symptoms, and decrease risk for development of PPD during pregnancy.