The weeks after the birth can be filled with deep and powerful emotions, such as joy and excitement. At the same time, it can be overwhelming and make coping with the life changes of a new baby challenging. Talking with a professional can help.
The exact number of women with depression during this time is unknown. But researchers believe that depression is one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy. Often, the depression is not recognized or treated, because some normal pregnancy changes cause similar symptoms and are happening at the same time. Tiredness, problems sleeping, stronger emotional reactions, and changes in body weight may occur during pregnancy and after pregnancy. But these symptoms may also be signs of depression.
There may be a number of reasons why a woman gets depressed. Hormone changes or a stressful life event, such as a death in the family, can cause chemical changes in the brain that lead to depression. Depression is also an illness that runs in some families. Other times, it’s not clear what causes depression.
During pregnancy, these factors may increase a woman’s chance of depression:
History of depression or substance abuse
Family history of mental illness
Little support from family and friends
Anxiety about the fetus
Problems with previous pregnancy or birth
Marital or financial problems
Young age (of mother)
Depression after pregnancy is called postpartum depression. After pregnancy, hormonal changes in a woman’s body may trigger symptoms of depression. During pregnancy, the amount of two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in a woman’s body increases greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, the amount of these hormones rapidly drops back down to their normal non-pregnant levels. Researchers think the fast change in hormone levels may lead to depression, just as smaller changes in hormones can affect a woman’s moods before she gets her menstrual period.
Feeling tired after delivery, broken sleep patterns, and not enough rest often keeps a new mother from regaining her full strength for weeks.
Feeling overwhelmed with a new, or another, baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.
Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be “super mom” or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress.
Having feelings of loss — loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby, loss of control, loss of your pre-pregnancy figure, and feeling less attractive.
Having less free time and less control over time. Having to stay home indoors for longer periods of time and having less time to spend with the your partner and loved ones.
The baby blues can happen in the days right after childbirth and normally go away within a few days to a week. A new mother can have sudden mood swings, sadness, crying spells, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, and feel irritable, restless, anxious, and lonely. Symptoms are not severe and treatment isn’t needed. But there are things you can do to feel better. Nap when the baby does. Ask for help from your spouse, family members, and friends. Join a support group of new moms or talk with other moms.
Postpartum depression can happen anytime within the first year after childbirth. A woman may have a number of symptoms such as sadness, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, anxiety, and feelings of guilt and worthlessness. The difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues is that postpartum depression often affects a woman’s well-being and keeps her from functioning well for a longer period of time. Postpartum depression needs to be treated by a doctor. Counseling, support groups, and medicines are things that can help.
There are two common types of treatment for depression.
This involves talking to a psychologist to learn to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.
Psychiatrists can give you an antidepressant medicine to help you. These medicines can help relieve the symptoms of depression.
Pregnancy and postpartum depression are treatable with skilled professional help and support. Working with a therapist can help you feel like yourself again.