You’ve heard of the “baby blues.” This may include crying spells, anxiety and insomnia for the first week or two after delivery.
But don’t confuse the “baby blues” with postpartum depression.
In actuality, there are many causes for depression and mood swings after childbirth. Some may be relatively mild and resolve, while other new moms may experience an almost debilitating form of depression called postpartum depression.
If you have this condition, we want you to know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of, and there is help available.
“First, we want our mamas to know that postpartum depression isn’t a sign of weakness,” said Leigh Ann Joel, CNM. “This isn’t some sort of character flaw and it is not a sign that you are a bad mother. Rather, it’s a result of a lot of chemical and hormonal changes that are going on within your body.”
“We want you to know that we are here to assist you. We will always listen to you and take your concerns seriously. If you have severe depression after childbirth, please do not hesitate to speak to us,” she added.
What is Postpartum Depression?
At first, you may think you have the “baby blues.” These share a lot of the same symptoms as postpartum depression
While “baby blues” typically resolve within two weeks after delivery, postpartum depression can last much longer. The symptoms can range from mild to severe.
In postpartum depression, the symptoms are usually so intense that it makes it extremely difficult to not only care for your baby but to accomplish other basic tasks.
What Are the Signs of Postpartum Depression?
You should pay special attention if you’re showing the following signs of postpartum depression:
- A fear that you’re not a good mother
- Severe mood swings
- Feeling of emptiness
- Depression to the point that it interferes with your daily activity
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Not participating in activities you once enjoyed
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Sleep disturbances—either sleeping too much or too little
- Loss of energy
- Extreme fatigue
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to make decisions
These symptoms can make it difficult, if not impossible, to go on with the activities of everyday life.
Feeling this way can also make it difficult to reach out to loved ones or ask for support
How Long Can Postpartum Depression Last?
The answer to this question is “it depends.”
If you have signs of postpartum depression and you seek treatment, you can dramatically reduce the amount of time it lasts. It may last only a few weeks or a month.
However, a delay in treatment can prolong the effects of postpartum depression. In some cases, it may even last years. For patients who have struggled with anxiety, depression, or postpartum depression in the past, we make sure that we are checking in on them more frequently either by telemedicine or in-person visit.
What Are the Causes of Postpartum Depression?
Actually, there is no one cause of postpartum depression. Many things work in concert with each other to produce the condition. Here are a few of the items that may be at the heart of what causes postpartum depression.
Childbirth creates extreme changes in hormones. Some, such as estrogen and progesterone, dramatically lower, and this can contribute to depression.
Your thyroid may also be affected, which can cause you to feel not only depressed, but exhausted and sluggish as well.
There’s no question: even when things are going “smoothly,” motherhood is still stressful. Sleepless nights on top of worry and concern over your new arrival can take a toll on your emotional health. These can all be contributing factors to postpartum depression.
Sense of Isolation
Especially during the pandemic, families with newborns feel more disconnected.
What Can Put You at Risk for Developing Postpartum Depression?
First, remember that any mom can develop postpartum depression, whether she’s having her first child or her third. It affects women across all socioeconomic borders.
While it can be challenging to predict who will develop postpartum depression, some of the risk factors include:
- Any history of depression
- Previous postpartum depression
- A family history of depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Any previous stressful event, such as illness or an earlier miscarriage
- A baby with a health problem or special needs
- Multiple births
- Lack of a support network
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Difficulty breastfeeding
Of course, just because you may have some of these factors doesn’t mean that you’ll develop postpartum depression. However, if any of these are an issue for you, we do want you to let us know so we can better support you.
How Can You Reduce the Effects of PPD (Postpartum Depression)?
The key to reducing the effects of PPD is to be proactive and be aware of any signs or symptoms as they develop. Sometimes, we ask you to complete a simple, short depression-screening questionnaire during pregnancy and after delivery.
We also offer Centering Pregnancy which has been shown to reduce the rates of postpartum depression along with other benefits.
The good news is that if you’re experiencing mild depression, support groups and counseling are particularly effective.
After birth, we’ll monitor you for postpartum depression, and we may suggest antidepressant treatment or therapy.
Let Us Help You Heal From Postpartum Depression
It is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of women have experienced postpartum depression. It does not mean that you are weak or that you are a bad mother. It simply means that you need some help getting through this difficult transition in your life.
But it does get better. With our help, we can enable you to get back to the life—and family—you love.
Scheduling an appointment is easy. Simply contact us.
For more than 40 years, Chapel Hill OBGYN has served women in the Triangle area, sharing the joy of little miracles and supporting them during challenges. Our board-certified physicians and certified nurse midwives bring together the personal experience and convenience of a private practice with the state-of-the-art resources found at larger organizations. To schedule an appointment, please contact us for more information.