Depression in women during pregnancy and after the birth of their infant is quite common and often misunderstood. Perinatal depression and postpartum depression are depression in women that occur during or after pregnancy. Feeling depressed during and after birth is quite common in women however, it is rarely talked about and often overlooked. Keep reading to learn the important signs of postpartum depression and treatment options. Postpartum depression needs to be openly talked about because women do not need to suffer with postpartum depression symptoms and treatment is available.
Just Snap Out of It
Pregnancy and childbirth are life altering conditions that women experience. Many women experience “the baby blues” during pregnancy or after childbirth. Unfortunately, depression in women is rarely talked about because most women believe they are supposed to feel a certain way after giving birth to a healthy infant. Women have been instructed to keep their feelings of sadness, irritability, worry, fatigue, and so on, to themselves and to “just snap out of it”. Unfortunately, it is not that easy to just “snap out of it” because postpartum depression is a mental health disorder and one that is overlooked within society.
What is Postpartum Depression and Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression is a mood disorder that can affect women during pregnancy and postpartum depression occurs after childbirth. You may have heard women experiencing the “baby blues”. The “baby blues” is a term used to describe mild mood changes and feelings of worry, unhappiness, and exhaustion that many women sometimes experience in the first few weeks after having a baby. Babies require around-the-clock care, so it’s normal for mothers to feel tired or overwhelmed sometimes however, if mood changes and feelings of anxiety or unhappiness increase, or if they last longer than 2 weeks, a woman may have postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression generally will not feel better unless they receive mental health treatment.
Postpartum depression is an overlooked mental health disorder. Many women do not speak of their mental health symptoms for fear of not appearing like the perfect mother. Women may feel they will not receive the support they need for their mental health symptoms, or they may fear ridicule or rejection from their partners or family supporters. Mental health therapy and psychiatric medication are highly effective treatment options for depression in women.
Learn The Signs of Postpartum Depression
The signs of depression in women and the signs of postpartum depression include the following:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Fatigue or abnormal decrease in energy
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping (even when the baby is sleeping), awakening early in the morning, or oversleeping
- Abnormal appetite, weight changes, or both
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not have a clear physical cause or do not ease even with treatment
- Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the new baby
- Persistent doubts about the ability to care for the new baby
- Thoughts about death, suicide, or harming oneself or the baby (Dial 911 or 988)
Some women may experience a few symptoms of perinatal depression or postpartum depression while others may experience several symptoms. It is important for women who experience any of these symptoms to see a health care provider who understands and treats postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Causes
Perinatal depression and postpartum depression are real medical disorders and can affect any mother regardless of age, race, income, culture, or education. Women are not to blame or at fault for having postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is not brought on by anything a mother has or has not done. There are many causes of postpartum depression and depression in women, but more research is needed to provide improved postpartum depression treatment.
Postpartum depression and perinatal depression are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, life stress such as demands at work or experiences of past trauma, the physical and emotional demands of childbearing and caring for a new baby, and changes in hormones that occur during and after pregnancy can contribute to the development of postpartum depression. In addition, women are at greater risk for developing postpartum depression if they have a personal or family history of depression or bipolar disorder or if they have experienced perinatal depression or postpartum depression with a previous pregnancy.
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
Treatment for perinatal depression and postpartum depression is important for the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby. Postpartum depression and perinatal depression can have serious health effects on the mother and infant. With proper treatment for depression, most women feel better, and their depression symptoms improve. Treatment for perinatal depression and postpartum depression often includes therapy, medications, or a combination of the two.
Mental health counseling, also known as psychotherapy, mental health therapy, or talk therapy, can help women with perinatal depression. Two examples of effective depression treatment approaches that have been used to treat postpartum blues and postpartum symptoms include cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that can help people with depression and anxiety. It teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations. People learn to challenge and change unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior as a way of improving their depressive and anxious feelings and emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar concerns.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
Interpersonal therapy is an evidence-based therapy that has been used to treat depression, including perinatal depression and postpartum depression. It is based on the idea that interpersonal and life events impact mood and vice versa. The goal of interpersonal therapy is to help people to improve their communication skills within relationships, to develop social support networks, and to develop realistic expectations that allow them to deal with crises or other issues that may be contributing to their depression.
Postpartum Depression Treatment with Medications
Women with perinatal depression and postpartum depression are mostly treated with antidepressants, which are medications used to treat depression. They may help improve the way the brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should notify their health care provider before starting antidepressants so their health care provider can work to minimize the baby’s exposure to the medication during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Women may need to try several different medications before finding the one that improves their symptoms and has manageable side effects.
Antidepressants take time, usually 6 to 8 weeks, to work, and symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration problems often improve before your mood lifts. It is important to give medication a chance before deciding whether it works. So, it is important to seek help immediately upon noticing postpartum symptoms. The sooner you receive postpartum depression treatment, the sooner you will feel better.
Also, do not stop taking antidepressants without the help of a healthcare provider. Sometimes people taking antidepressants feel better and then stop taking the medication on their own, and depression returns. Stopping medications abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms. When a woman and her health care provider have decided it is time to stop the medication, the health care provider will help her to decrease the dose slowly and safely.
Supportive Family and Friends Can Help
Women need the support of family and friends after giving birth. During pregnancy and after childbirth, women need help to reduce stress in their lives. It is important to understand that depression is a medical condition that impacts the mother, the child, and the family. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of perinatal depression in a new mother. Treatment is central to recovery. Family members can encourage the mother to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
Treatment for postpartum depression is available. Please, get the help you need and forget about any of the stigma associated with mental health disorders. Postpartum depression is treatable. Please be aware that pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for yourself and an infant is challenging. You do not have to pretend everything is okay. Be honest and openly talk about your concerns with a healthcare professional and trusted friends and family.
You are not alone, and you do not have to suffer. Get the help you need because you matter! Contact a professional mental health counselor at Sobair. We offer confidential counselling and coaching services that benefit you.