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What is Postpartum Depression?

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Health Care

Having a child is a very impactful event that can be extremely emotional and come with a whole mix of feelings and challenges. Many mothers experience what is known as postpartum depression, a form of depression that occurs during late pregnancy or after childbirth and can disrupt mood regulation and make bonding with the child difficult.

Postpartum depression is often confused with the more common “baby blues”, which is a rather typical experience for new moms. Symptoms of baby blues can include anxiety, irritability, sadness, trouble sleeping, appetite issues, feeling overwhelmed, and reduced concentration. These are common problems to experience following childbirth that usually last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

Postpartum depression is a more severe condition that can last for multiple months or longer when untreated. Like depression, this condition can make it difficult to carry out daily tasks and care for your baby. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:

  • Severe mood swings or depressed mood
  • Excessive crying
  • Panic attacks or severe anxiety
  • Intense anger or irritability
  • Feelings of hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Reduced pleasure from typical activities or interests
  • Loss of energy or intense lethargy
  • Overeating or loss of appetite
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Thoughts of harming your baby or yourself

If you experience any of these symptoms, or your symptoms are not fading or getting worse after two weeks, make it difficult to care for your child, make it difficult to do everyday tasks, or include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, you should contact your doctor immediately.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

There are a variety of factors that can lead to postpartum depression, but two of the main causes are the physical and emotional challenges that come with having a baby.

Your body may experience a dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone after childbirth that contributes to depression. Additionally, other hormones produced by the thyroid gland can drop suddenly, leading to sluggishness and lack of energy.

Taking your child home for the first time is a completely new experience and requires a lot of energy and attention. Being overwhelmed and sleep-deprived can make it difficult to handle small problems. Many new mothers experience anxiety about their ability to care for the child, feel less attractive, or struggle with their sense of identity. All of these can contribute to the development of postpartum depression.

There also are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing postpartum depression:

  • A personal or family history of depression or mood disorders
  • Experiencing postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • Having multiple births, twins, or triplets
  • Having a weak support system or financial problems
  • An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
  • The baby has health problems or special needs
  • Experiencing other stressful events
  • Experiencing issues in the relationship with the significant other

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Depending on the individual case and situation, treatments for postpartum depression vary. There are three common treatments for the condition:

Psychotherapy

As with other forms of depression, talking to a psychologist, therapist, or another mental health professional can help you deal with postpartum depression. Therapy helps individuals find ways to cope and deal with their feelings, set realistic goals, solve problems, and react to challenges in more positive and productive ways. This goes for both individual and relationship or family therapy.

Antidepressants

Many women are prescribed antidepressants to treat their symptoms. Most antidepressants can be used during breastfeeding with a low risk of side effects for the baby.

Zulresso

Zulresso is the only medication that is specifically FDA-approved for the treatment of postpartum depression. This medication is administered intravenously in a clinic such as TMS & Brain Health. The full infusion process takes 60 hours. Zulresso has been clinically proven to provide depression symptom relief almost immediately and results typically last at least 30 days.

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