The cause of PPD is not known. The same after-birth hormonal and physical changes that contribute to “Baby Blues,” along with the stress of caring for a new baby, likely play a role. According to U.S. National Library of Medicine, women who have had depression in the past are at higher risk for PPD.
What are the signs of PPD?
A woman with postpartum depression may feel sad, tearful, despairing, discouraged, hopeless, worthless, or alone. According to the March of Dimes, you may have PPD if you have five or more of the below signs that last longer than two weeks:
- Changes in your feelings:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, every day
- Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
- Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
- Having severe mood swings
- Changes in your everyday life:
- Having little interest in things you normally like to do
- Feeling tired all the time
- Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you
- Gaining or losing weight
- Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby:
- Having trouble bonding with your baby
- Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
- Thinking about killing yourself
How Likely Am I To Get PPD?
Here are some factors, according to MarchofDimes.org, that might make you more prone to developing PPD:
- You’re younger than 20
- You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders in the past (treated or untreated)
- You have a family history of depression
- You’ve recently had stressful events in your life
- Can PPD Affect My Baby?
PPD can make proper care for your baby difficult. A baby of a PPD mother might:
- Experience difficulty bonding with mom
- Cry a lot
- Be developmentally delayed in speech
- Exhibit behavioral problems
- If you see these signs in your baby, tell your health care provider. Getting treatment early can help both you and your baby.
When To See A Doctor
If you think you might have PPD, see a health care provider right away, whether the person who delivered your baby, your primary care provider, your baby’s provider, or a mental health professional. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better. If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call emergency services at 911. The March of Dimes recommends you tell your health care provider if you:
- Have concerns about your ability to be a good mom
- Put too much pressure on yourself to be a perfect mom
- Feel that you’re no longer the person you were before you delivered your baby
- Feel that you’re less attractive after having your baby
- Have no free time for yourself
- Aren’t sleeping well or getting enough sleep
What If I Ignore The Symptoms? Will It Go Away?
Left untreated, postpartum depression can interfere with mother-child bonding, eventually becoming a chronic depressive disorder. According to MayoClinic.org, children of mothers who have untreated postpartum depression are more likely to have behavioral problems. That can include sleeping and eating difficulties, temper tantrums and hyperactivity, as well as problems with language development.
What Can I Do To Feel Better?
- Stay healthy and fit
- Be active every day, (i.e., walk, do yoga, or get back to the gym.)
- Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean meats. Try to eat fewer sweets and processed, salty snacks.
- Maintain contact with the people you care about and who care about you. Confide in your spouse, partner, family and friends how you’re feeling.
- Join a support group for mothers; ask your health care provider for suggestions if you can’t find one.
- Don’t do it all! Ask your friends and family to watch the baby, help with housekeeping or go grocery shopping. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.
- Get as much rest as you can. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Avoid alcohol and non-prescription drugs. As a depressant, alcohol can slow your body down and make you feel more depressed. And street drugs affect the way your body works and can cause problems with the medicine you’re taking for PPD. Don’t drink alcohol or take street drugs if you’re breastfeeding, as you can pass them both to your baby through your breast milk.
Treating Postpartum Depression
If you have signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, call your doctor. Don’t let shame or anxiety stop you. Postpartum depression is common, and your doctor knows it’s not your fault. To protect your health and the health of your baby, the condition needs to be treated as soon as possible.
According to the American Psychological Association, about half of women who are later diagnosed with PPD may have begun experiencing symptoms during pregnancy. So it’s important to seek help early! Getting the right help can make all the difference for you, your baby and your family.
It’s important to know that PPD is not your fault; you didn’t do anything to get it, and it doesn’t make you a bad mother. Be assured that you CAN get help, and your depression can be a thing of the past.
IMPORTANT: If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, take action now! Put the baby in a safe place, preferably a crib. Call a friend or family member for help if you need to, or:
Call a suicide hotline (free & staffed all day, every day):
National Hopeline Network
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: LifeLine
March of Dimes
American Psychological Association http://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-dep.aspx
Medicine Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health