‘Baby blues’ occurs in 40 to 80 percent of new mothers and is the term used to describe emotions such as anxiety; sadness; fatigue; and self-doubt, which surface from day one after childbirth and can continue for up to two weeks postpartum. Postpartum depression is just one of many complications a mother can experience after giving birth.
The experience of becoming a mother is scary and it is natural for women to take a few weeks to stabilize after the toll of pregnancy and birth.
When these symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is considered to be a more serious condition which can have a dreadful outcome. This is the time when the casual ‘baby blues’ can be referred to as the more severe postpartum depression (PPD).
Postpartum depression is less common than ‘baby blues’; about 10 to 20 percent of women suffer from PPD, which gets in the way of completing everyday tasks and essential mother-baby bonding.
Postpartum depression is a result of the hormonal, emotional, genetic and environmental changes of pregnancy and childbirth. These changes lead to a chemical imbalance in the brain and depression.
The key difference between postpartum depression and standard depression is timing – the symptoms are similar, however PPD only occurs after, and as a result of hormonal changes which occur during, childbirth. Women are most likely to suffer from PPD if they experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy.
Oestrogen and progesterone levels are constantly changing from the time a woman falls pregnant until the time she gives birth. Childbirth causes a shift in these hormones and can result in PPD in women who are sensitive to hormone changes.
Here is a list of the 10 most common symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Loss of interest in hobbies and favourite activities.
- Inability to complete day to day tasks.
- Tearfulness, crying a lot and restlessness.
- Mood swings including anger and irritability.
- Difficulty falling asleep or waking up.
- Loss of interest in the new born baby.
- Feelings of overwhelming guilt.
- Loss of appetite.
- Difficulty concentrating on simple tasks.
These emotions and symptoms are aggravated by the fact that women are supposed to be happy and joyous when they first take their new born baby home. Postpartum depression can lead to women acting out in ways that go against their nature, such as neglecting or harming the baby.
Postpartum depression is easy to diagnose and most commonly begins with ‘baby blues’. It is important for loved ones and doctors to keep an eye on any woman who experiences symptoms of ‘baby blues’ to ensure that she receives treatment as quickly as possible.
The recommended treatment for PPD includes therapy and/or antidepressants. Therapy can be one-on-one counselling or women can join bigger support groups – it all depends on the needs of the individual.
Antidepressants are designed to bring the chemicals of the brain back to a stable balance, which will result in the mother being able to return to her normal life and take care of her baby. Untreated postpartum depression can have dire consequences and needs to be treated as quickly as possible.