Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
About one in 10 women experience postpartum depression (PPD) after giving birth. The condition, which comes in three forms, can sometimes go undiagnosed.
One form, the “baby blues,” may begin within a few days of giving birth and causes mild sadness, irritability, fatigue and anxiety. This mild depression may last from just a few hours to one to two weeks after delivery and does not always require professional treatment.
The second form is commonly referred to as postpartum depression, although that name technically applies to any of the three forms of the condition. This second form of PPD can begin about four weeks after delivery, but may not appear for months. Symptoms are similar to the baby blues, but they are felt much more strongly and may last as long as a year. When a mother’s ability to function is affected, she should get treatment from her health care provider.
The rarest and most serious form of PPD is postpartum psychosis. It can begin within the first three months after delivery. Women affected by postpartum psychosis can lose touch with reality. They may hear and see things that aren’t really there, may suffer from insomnia or irritability, and may act strangely. Women who suffer from postpartum psychosis need immediate treatment. They almost always require medication and in some cases may be hospitalized to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.
Symptoms of PPD may include feelings of sadness, inadequacy, failure, hopelessness, guilt, shame, worthlessness or helplessness; exhaustion; tearfulness; weight loss or gain due to under- or overeating; confusion; anxiety; fear of harming the baby; and fear of being alone or going out. Those suffering with PPD may also have decreased energy or motivation, insomnia or excessive sleep, nightmares, irritability, withdrawal from social events, poor hygiene and an inability to cope with routine tasks.
Postpartum depression can affect child-bearing women of any age, economic status or racial background. Any woman who is pregnant or who has recently given birth, miscarried or weaned a child from breast-feeding can develop PPD.
There is no clear cause of PPD. It may be due to hormonal and other chemical changes that occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy or childbirth. Other things that can contribute to PPD include not getting enough sleep, feeling overwhelmed with caring for a new child, increased stress from changes in work and home routine, feelings of loss of control, or having less free time.
Postpartum depression is a treatable condition. The type of treatment depends on how severely the mother is suffering. It is sometimes treated with medication, and mothers are often advised to attend support groups to talk with other women who are suffering from PPD.
A new mother should try to take care of herself as well as her new baby by getting lots of rest and napping when the baby naps, not worrying about getting all of the household chores done and, most importantly, talking with her husband, partner, family, friends and doctor about her feelings, especially if she feels she may be suffering from PPD.