Your body goes through a lot of changes both during and after pregnancy. Your mind also goes through a lot of changes, and some of these changes can lead to postpartum depression.
Around 70% of women will experience something known commonly as the baby blues, which is kind of like a milder and more temporary form of postpartum depression. Some studies have shown that around 13% of women will experience postpartum depression in the 12 months after giving birth to their child.
In this post we will look at what postpartum depression is, the warning signs to look out for and how to treat postpartum depression.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is simply depression that occurs during pregnancy or after giving birth. It is estimated that 1 in 7 women will experience postpartum depression.
As mentioned above, around 70% of women will experience the baby blues. The symptoms of this are sadness, difficulty bonding with the baby, mood swings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and crying spells. Typically, this will begin within a few days of giving birth and last for up to 2 weeks. If these symptoms are more severe and persist longer than that, then you may have postpartum depression and should see a doctor to get diagnosed.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
The symptoms of postpartum depression will be similar to the baby blues as discussed earlier, however these symptoms will be more intense and last longer. The symptoms of postpartum depression include the following:
Severe mood swings
Difficulty bonding with the baby
Crying a lot
Changes in appetite
Lack of interest in activities you used to find enjoyable
If you are experiencing more severe symptoms such as thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, then get in touch with a doctor or emergency services immediately.
How Is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing the symptoms listed above for longer than 2 weeks then you should see a doctor to get a diagnosis. If you are experiencing more severe symptoms such as psychosis or thoughts of harming yourself or your baby then you should see your doctor immediately or call emergency services in your location to get help.
Postpartum depression is diagnosed by a discussion with your doctor about the symptoms you have been experiencing and your thoughts and feelings. Your doctor may get you to complete a questionnaire to help in their diagnosis. They may also do blood tests and other tests to make sure there is no other underlying health condition contributing to your depression.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There is no one single cause of postpartum depression, however there are 2 main causes.
The first is the physical changes your body is going through which includes a decrease in hormone production such as estrogen and progesterone.
The second potential cause is the fact that you are sleep deprived and under a lot of pressure to care for your baby, which is often something completely new to you. This pressure combined with a lack of sleep can make it hard to handle a lot of everyday situations, which can lead to postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression In Men
Although it is far more common in women, men can also suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, for me I did not really start feeling the symptoms of depression until my first child was born.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same in men as they are for women. New fathers who have a history of depression and mental illness are more at risk of developing postpartum depression. Having relationship or financial problems can also make men more susceptible to postpartum depression.
If you are a man and have been feeling any of the symptoms listed previously, then you should definitely go and speak to your doctor who may diagnose you with postpartum depression.
How To Treat Postpartum Depression
If left untreated, postpartum depression can last for a long time and sometimes lead to major depressive disorder and other mental illnesses. That’s why it is important to see your doctor as early as possible to begin a treatment plan. There are many possible treatment options for postpartum depression and other types of depression, some of which are detailed below:
Medication. As postpartum depression is often caused by hormonal changes in the body, medication can sometimes be more effective at treating postpartum depression than other types of depression. Sometimes the right antidepressant is all it takes to break free of the depression and get back to living a normal and happy life. Your doctor will advise you on which is the best antidepressant for you. Be aware, that antidepressants often take 1-2 months to reach their full effect. They also come with a long list of potential side effects, so sometimes the situation will get worse before it gets better. You should maintain communication with your doctor about any side effects that you may be feeling, and also to keep them updated on your overall mental state. It should also be noted that some medications should not be taken while breastfeeding, so make sure your doctor is aware of this.
Psychotherapy is a great option to treat postpartum depression and improve your mental health. It’s just a fancy name for talk therapy. Just discussing your feelings and what you are going through and getting advice from your doctor may be enough to help you to start feeling better.
Your doctor or healthcare professional may also choose a well-known and proven psychotherapy strategy such as cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT as it is more commonly known. CBT helps your brain to develop more helpful ways of thinking and with practice, you will find that problems, thoughts and feelings are easier to manage successfully. I have used CBT to successfully treat my own depression, and I highly recommend using it to improve your mental health. There is a link to a great resource at the end of this post that includes using CBT to overcome depression.
Another proven but lesser known psychotherapy treatment is acceptance commitment therapy, or ACT as it is more commonly referred to. This is another of my favourite strategies for treating depression. With a little time and effort, you will be able to remain calm in any situation and think your way through it while being driven by your own values. That’s probably not the best explanation for ACT, but you can find out more by reading a book by Dr. Russ Harris called The Happiness Trap. It is the best book I have ever read on the subject and I have actually read it several times. He also has other books on the subject, including ACT for relationships, but The Happiness Trap is the best place to start.
Exercise is another treatment option for postpartum depression and other types of depression. I know doctors always say to exercise more and you’ll feel better, but it is actually true. I wrote a post on the 7 benefits of exercise for mental health which will show you why exercise is something you should definitely be doing regularly. You don’t need to do a lot like join a gym, just strap your baby in the stroller and go for a 20-30 minute walk every day. You’ll quickly be feeling the benefits of it, including improved energy levels and better sleep.
Your diet also plays a very big part in your mental health. I have written a post on foods which you should eat and foods to avoid for treating depression. Please note that this post does not take into consideration any special dietary restrictions you may have if you are breastfeeding, so please factor that in. Just improving your diet and exercising daily may be enough for you to break the chains of your depression.
Although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a treatment option for postpartum depression, joining a mother’s group or new parents group can be beneficial in a number of ways. One is that it will help you to socialize more and connect with other new parents when it can be difficult to find the time to do as a new parent. Another benefit is that you will be surrounding yourself with people who are in a similar situation to you and may be feeling the same low mood that you have been. Having someone to talk to that understands your situation and feelings can play a big part in your road to recovery from postpartum depression.
How To Treat The Baby Blues
If you are suffering from the baby blues rather than postpartum depression, then focus on the treatment options listed above, like diet, exercise and connecting with other new parents. You will find CBT and ACT to both be very useful and will give you long term benefits.
One of the main things is to create happy time for yourself. This can be just getting a 2 hour break from your baby to have a nap or go out on your own. To do this you will need to accept help from others. It is important to reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed and accepting help from others is the best way to do that. So please speak up about your struggles and ask for help whenever you need it.
My Preferred Treatment Option For Depression
I am a long-time sufferer (over 10 years) of depression and anxiety. I have tried an extensive list of different medications all with little to no positive impact. I have been hospitalized for my depression 4 times. I used to think my situation was hopeless and that I had tried everything and was never going to get better. I’d all but given up on returning to a normal life.
Then I came across a course called Destroy Depression. I didn’t hold out any great hope that it could help me, but given that it had a money back guarantee I decided that it couldn’t hurt to try it. It is a 7 step course for beating depression, and there is a large part of it that is dedicated to CBT. It goes into detail about how to use CBT in your own life every day to get on top and stay on top of depression.
This is the one depression treatment that I had the greatest success with. As mentioned, it comes with a money back guarantee so there is nothing to lose by trying it out. I am sure if you take the time to implement the advice in the course, then you will see an improvement to your mental health. Click the link below to learn more about it. I hope it brings you as much success as what it did for me.
Please note – the product links on this page are affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission if you make a purchase through that link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and helps me to keep the website running.