When to Seek Professional Help for Postpartum Depression

What is Postpartum Depression?

Following the birth of your baby-ostensibly one of the most important and happiest events in your life-you may find yourself feeling sad, depressed, and crying at the drop of a hat. Also known as "baby blues" postpartum depression in its mild form is entirely normal due to your widely fluctuating hormones. In fact, over three-quarters of women who have just given birth experience some degree of mood disturbances. They may feel very alone in their world, despite loving friends and family members around them, may feel upset or sad, and most disturbingly to most women, may feel either unloving, or no feelings at all toward their brand-new baby. These feelings, which can be frightening for women, generally peak around three to five days following the baby's birth, and can last from several days to two weeks. Mild, normal, postpartum depression will not interfere with your ability to care for your new baby.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Women who are experiencing a mild form of the baby blues may feel uninterested in any type of activity, even the ones that they formerly found pleasurable. They may have either no interest in food, or an appetite that seems to grow daily as well as low sexual desire, tiredness and extremely low energy levels. Irritation may occur from anything-or almost nothing. The woman with postpartum depression may feel like they are walking around in a constant brain fog as they are unable to concentrate or remember things. More serious forms of postpartum depression can cause some women to feel hopeless, and not to care about anything or anybody-including their baby. They may think about bad things happening to the baby, or even have thoughts of harming the baby themselves. Everyday tasks may feel completely overwhelming-taking a shower may feel like something that is simply too much trouble. When the postpartum depression hangs on longer than a couple of weeks, the new mother may start to wonder if she will ever feel "normal" again.

Your Risks of Getting Postpartum Depression

For over half of the women who suffer from postpartum depression, this will be their first episode of depression, however women who were depressed prior to getting pregnant are thought to have a higher incidence of postpartum depression. If a woman suffered from postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy, she stands a higher chance of it recurring in subsequent births. Knowing she will be returning to a home in which there are stressful relationships, or having a baby who is either ill or cries often also increases the risks for more serious postpartum depression. Finally, women who have had other family members who suffered postpartum depression are more likely to also suffer as are women who have gone through a pregnancy which was unwanted.

Treatment for Mild Postpartum Depression

If you are suffering from mild baby blues, then you can practice some self-care techniques which can lessen the severity and the duration of your depression. Try to surround yourself with supportive friends and family members, and make sure you have at least one person in your life you can talk to openly about your feelings. Eat nutritionally balanced meals, and grab sleep anytime you can. Try to get a good amount of exercise, preferably outside in the fresh air. All of these things can send mild baby blues on their way.

When to Seek Professional Help

If your postpartum depression does not seem to be lessening after two weeks, you must take it seriously. Postpartum depression left untreated for weeks can cause the disease to worsen, possibly developing into postpartum psychosis which can require quick and immediate treatment. In its severe forms, postpartum depression can have delusions or hallucinations, and can have suicidal thoughts or serious feelings of wanting to hurt their baby. Often, severe postpartum depression can turn into bipolar disorder or can cause a total psychotic break. You should definitely seek professional help should you experience anything beyond the "normal" baby blues, and self-help treatments are not working. Your health care professional may prescribe depression medication or psychotherapy treatments, or both in conjunction with one another.

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