What is Postpartum Depression?
Pregnancy and childbirth can pose serious challenges, especially for first-time moms.
The physical and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy; the vast responsibilities that accompany motherhood; the intense anxiety associated with caring for another human being; all these factors can easily lead to depression.
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a relatively common mental disorder in mothers, as well as their partners. The onset of postpartum depression typically occurs during the first six weeks after childbirth.
Postpartum depression is characterized by persistent sadness, lack of joy and satisfaction, and the apparent inability to take on the role of parent.
Some experts believe that postpartum depression isn’t a mental disorder per se, but the result of financial, social, and emotional insecurity that parents experience after childbirth.
This means that by helping the mother overcome these anxieties – through solid emotional and even material support from friends and family – postpartum depression should be treatable and, relative to other mental health issues, easy to treat.
However, in the absence of social support and professional help, postpartum depression can lead to a chronic form of depression.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression presents in a similar way to other forms of depressive disorder:
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Lack of joy and satisfaction
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Anger and irritability
- Low sex drive
- Lack of appetite (or increased appetite)
- Sudden mood swings (not to be confused with bipolar disorder)
- Difficulties in emotional attachment to the child
- Intrusive thoughts
- Fear of hurting or neglecting the child
- Inexplicable crying
- Suicidal ideation
How is Postpartum Depression Treated?
When it comes to postpartum depression, prompt treatment is crucial for both mother and baby. The sooner parents with PPD receive treatment, the faster the recovery.
That way, the chances of recurrent episodes of depression drop significantly, resulting in a much safer and nurturing environment for the baby.
For parents who struggle with postpartum depression, therapy has both an educational and supportive role.
On the one hand, a licensed therapist or counselor can help parents understand the challenges of parenthood and how to overcome them.
On the other hand, therapy represents a safe space where parents can talk about the difficulties that they experience without feeling criticized or judged for not being ‘the perfect parents.’
For postpartum depression, medication is typically the last resort, given the hormonal and neurochemical changes that can be brought about.
However, if the mother is struggling with severe depressive symptoms, then medication might be the only way to help her cope with the challenges of parenthood.
Social and familial support
While medication and therapy help parents manage the unpleasant symptoms associated with postpartum depression, social and familial support create an environment where parents and their baby feel safe.
This feeling of security gives parents the courage to tackle the challenges of raising a child and the guidance they need whenever they feel overwhelmed by parenthood.