For many mothers, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is often followed by sadness, fear, anxiety, and difficulty making decisions. Many women find it difficult to have the energy to take care of themselves, their babies, and their families.
Some have a desire to hurt themselves or their children. These can be symptoms of depression. If this reminds you of someone or even yourself, then we want you to know that you are not alone!
Do you feel that things have changed after getting pregnant?
Do you think things are different than what you had expected when you became a mother?
In this article, we will try to explain the possible causes of your feelings, and more importantly, how to get the help you need.
There are many reasons why you can get depressed. Your body undergoes many hormonal changes during and after pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, her body produces the female hormones estrogen and progesterone in much greater amounts.
However, during the first 24 hours after delivery, these hormone levels rapidly decline to levels that are no longer those during the time when you were pregnant. These sudden hormonal changes can cause depression in a similar way that menstrual hormones can trigger symptoms similar to those that occur during and after a woman’s menstrual period.
In some women, another possible cause of these symptoms after pregnancy is a decrease in thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland (located in the neck). These hormones help regulate the way the body uses energy. Low thyroid levels can lead to feelings of depression or irritation, trouble sleeping and concentrating, and weight gain.
If you combine these changes in your body with the dramatic changes in your life, normal feelings such as being overwhelmed with new responsibilities, the pressure of being a “wonderful” mother, and the feeling of loss of the life you had before are a recipe. for the ‘baby blues’..
Some women are at increased risk of depression during and after pregnancy:
- The mother’s personal history of depression and other mental illnesses is generally the greatest risk factor
- Family history of depression and other mental illnesses
- Lack of support from family and friends
- Depression or mental illness of the woman’s partner
- Anxiety or negative feelings about pregnancy
- Problems with previous pregnancies or births
- Marriage or money problems
- Stressful events
- Pregnancy at a very young age
- Substance use disorder
- Domestic violence
- Chronic illness
The risk is also higher with multiple pregnancies, premature deliveries or when babies are born with deficits physical or neurodevelopmental whether congenital or acquired. Stressful transitions such as returning to work can also be a risk factor.
Minority, migrant, and refugee populations are most at risk as they face additional stress to adjust and adapt to their new environment without help from local family members, and with the additional stress of financial problems and cultural obstacles.
Although these risk factors help identify those most likely to have perinatal depression, any woman can suffer it during pregnancy or during the year following delivery.
Types of depression during and after pregnancy
Depression during and after pregnancy generally falls into the following categories: (1) sadness postpartum (2) perinatal depression (covers prenatal and postpartum) and (3) postpartum psychosis. There is help for all these cases.
Many women suffer from the baby blues after giving birth. In fact, it is estimated that 50% to 80% of mothers experience “the baby blues.” For most women, the baby blues are temporary — it usually goes away within a few days and can last up to 2 weeks after delivery.
If you have the baby blues you may be:
- Suffering from mood swings
- Feeling sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
- Have crying spells
- Lose your appetite
- Having trouble sleeping
Symptoms are generally not severe and there are relatively easy ways to control them:
- Sleep well. Take naps when your baby sleeps if you can.
- Free yourself from self-imposed pressure. You don’t have to do everything yourself! Do what you can and save the rest for later or for others to do.
- Avoid spending too much time alone.
- Ask your partner or family and friends for help and support.
- Join one of our new mom’s community groups.
- Get plenty of exercise.
Perinatal depression (includes prenatal and postpartum)
Postpartum depression encompasses prenatal depression (during pregnancy) and postpartum depression (during the first year after delivery). Symptoms of perinatal depression last longer than the “baby blues” and are more severe. It occurs in 1 in 5 women.
Pregnant women and new mothers who are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, with persistent crying or other depression symptoms should not suffer in silence or feel ashamed.
Instead, they should see their doctors right away for help, and in some cases, treatment if needed.
Symptoms of perinatal depression can be mild to severe. They can encompass the same symptoms of baby blues, but they can also include:
- Sleeping too much or not being able to sleep
- Lack of enjoyment of life
- Emotional numbness
- Trouble concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- Lack of interest in personal care
- Not feeling like doing everyday tasks
- Get away from family and friends
- Loss of interest in sex or sexual sensitivity
- A marked feeling of failure or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Showing too much (or too little) concern for the baby
- High expectations and an overly demanding attitude
- Difficulty making sense of things
There are effective treatments for perinatal depression. Treatment often consists of a combination of antidepressant medications, communication therapy, and support resources available in the community.
Despite this, many women do not undergo treatment despite its effectiveness. Some are concerned about the risk that antidepressant medications may have to their baby’s health. It is important to consult directly with your doctor and communicate these concerns if you have them.
The same tips for getting over the “baby blues” can help you get over postpartum depression. Whatever steps you and your doctor decide to take, it is important that you stick to your treatment plan for depression. If things don’t improve, don’t hesitate to check with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician for help!
A very small number of women (1 to 2 in 1,000 women) may suffer from a rare and severe form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis. Women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorders or schizoaffective disorder are at higher risk for postpartum psychosis.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis usually begin during the first 4 weeks after delivery and may include:
- Extreme confusion
- Feeling hopeless
- Unable to sleep (even when exhausted)
- Refusal to eat
- Mistrusting other people
- Seeing things or hearing voices that don’t exist
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or hurting the baby or others
Postpartum psychosis is temporary and can be treated with professional help, but it is an emergency situation that requires immediate attention.
Your partner may also suffer from depression
New parents are also at risk for depression. Men generally tend to avoid expressing their feelings. They refuse to accept that they may be at risk and do not ask for help when they need it. However, parents with depression find it difficult to help their partners and children; This increases the risk of maternal depression. It is believed that depression in parents can also be treated, but is often not identified. Consult for more information: Dads can also suffer from postpartum depression.
There is not much research on depression among couples who are the same sex or who are not biological parents of the child, but clinical studies suggest that starting a new family can be a difficult transition for all parents. For this reason, any parent who has difficulty coping with the stress of parenting or who has symptoms of depression should consult with their doctor or the child’s pediatrician.
Talk to a healthcare professional
Screenings for depression during and after pregnancy should be a routine part of your medical care.
Health professionals — such as your doctor, your baby’s doctor, a nurse, or any other health provider — are familiar with the types of depression that pregnant and new mothers face. They know ways to help you and can explain your options. They are willing to listen to you and can lead you to recovery.
Any woman can suffer from depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. This does not mean that she is a bad mother or an incapable mother. In fact, undergoing treatment and seeking help, helps you take better care of your baby. You and your baby don’t have to suffer. Help is available.
Your children deserve the opportunity to have a healthy mother. And all mothers deserve the opportunity to enjoy their lives and their children. If you feel depressed during pregnancy or after giving birth, don’t suffer alone. Please tell a loved one and call your doctor as soon as possible.
Do you have your own experiences to share?
Please post them in our comments below. 💕