While many new mothers experience post-birth mood swings, anxiety, or sadness, these symptoms generally resolve themselves in a relatively short period of time. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is an incredibly serious and severe medical condition that could put both the new mother and baby in harm's way. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 1 in 10 new mothers is forced to cope with the overwhelming emotional roller coaster that is postpartum depression.
What are the Symptoms: There are an astounding amount of symptoms that often accompany postpartum depression. These symptoms can appear as early as 24 hours after the birth of the baby, or as late as several months after giving birth. They can last for a full year after the birth as well, and the longer they go untreated, the more likely it is that the mother and the child will experience lasting physical or emotional damage. The most recognizable, long-lasting symptoms of postpartum depression include: (via The U.S. National Library of Medicine)
- Loss of interest in the baby
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby
- Hallucinations or paranoia
Other symptoms or emotions associated with postpartum depression include: (via Postpartum Progress)
- Guilt that you are a bad mother
- Not feeling a bond with the baby
- Irritation or anger with yourself or the baby
- Inability to eat or sleep
- Feelings of disconnection or emptiness
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or emotions, it is important to remember that you are not alone, and that there are many people out there who want to help you. For a more comprehensive list of symptoms, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine website or the Postpartum Progress website.
What Type of Treatment is Available: A simple screening will detect postpartum depression, and from that point on there are two popular treatment options for new mothers: (via American Academy of Family Physicians)
- Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy provides women suffering from postpartum depression with an opportunity to gain help without introducing pharmaceuticals into their body. Medication is often believed to affect the development of a newborn who is breastfeeding, so avoiding antidepressants is often thought to be the best course of action. Group therapy is a popular option for suffering mothers, as it allows them to come to terms with their illness and cope with the assistance of other women who fully understand their struggles. Interpersonal therapy is also commonly used because it allows the mother to focus primarily on her relationships and her changing roles as a new mother.
- Antidepressant Therapy: While counseling is the recommended course of action for mothers suffering from postpartum depression, occasionally the symptoms or feelings of depression are so severe that the use of antidepressant medication becomes a viable, realistic option for treatment. Along with antidepressants, benzodiazepines are often prescribed in order to treat anxiety.
For mothers out there who are struggling to cope with postpartum depression just remember, with the proper treatment and counseling, this condition is not just treatable, it's curable; however, it is imperative that you reach out to those around you for help as you face these debilitating emotions. For more information on postpartum depression, check out these links: