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Postpartum - After Delivery

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a type of depression found in women after giving birth or having a miscarriage or stillbirth. Read this article to learn how postpartum depression differs from a sadness referred to as the baby blues. Find out the symptoms and treatment options for postpartum depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a specific type of depression that only affects women, and less often men, right after the birth of a child, or after a stillbirth or miscarriage.  Though some women experience a bit of sadness, sometimes referred to as the "baby blues" shortly after delivery, that condition resolves itself in a few days or weeks, and postpartum depression does not.

The so-called "baby blues" may result from the readjustment in hormone levels that occurs as a woman transitions out of the state of pregnancy.  Postpartum depression may as well. But many other factors can also affect new parents' moods during this time, particularly the woman.  In addition to the physical changes, a woman, especially a first time mother, has new and unfamiliar demands on her time, is likely not getting enough sleep, and may also have less time for her partner, let alone friends and family.  Some new mothers also have concerns about their parenting capabilities.

How Can the Baby Blues Be Distinguished from Postpartum Depression?

Some of the symptoms of postpartum depresssion are also common to baby blues.  These include changeable moods, anxiety and irritability, sadness and crying, insomnia and difficulty concentrating.  The symptoms that distinguish post-partum depression are more interruptive to the new mother's life and may include:

  • intense versions of the symptoms listed above that do not resolve
  • feelings of shame or guilt
  • withdrawal
  • taking no pleasure in life
  • loss of appetitie
  • extreme fatigue
  • difficulty bonding with the baby
  • thoughts of self-harm
  • thoughts of harming the baby

If someone has postpartum depression, it is critical that treatment be sought to avoid any serious problems.

Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

Some situations, events, circumstances, or other factors can make postpartum depression more likely.  These factors include:

  • a history of a mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, either herself or in her family
  • a history of an anxiety disorder, either herself or in her family
  • an unplanned pregnancy
  • a difficult pregnancy or delivery
  • being under age 20
  • severe financial stress
  • lack of support from those closest
  • being a single mother or having a difficult time with one's partner
  • the baby being unwell or colicky

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Treatment for postpartum depression is highly successful.  It may include a course of antidepressant medication, there are some that can be taken by mothers who are nursing, and some type of therapy.  Common therapeutic approaches include interpersonal therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In some cases, hormone therapy may be considered. Increased support from family and friends and sharing with a support group may also be helpful. 


Related Article: Signs of Miscarriage >>