Ask Your Doctor: POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION
Postpartum depression affects many women after giving birth. This condition, if not diagnosed and treated, can affect the woman, family members and friends adversely. In most cases, it can be successfully treated once the woman is diagnosed correctly and gets treatment.
What is postpartum depression?
This is a type of depression that can start at any point in the first year after giving birth. It may develop suddenly or gradually. Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the “baby blues” and is so common that it is considered normal. The “baby blues” do not last for more than two weeks after giving birth. The symptoms of postnatal depression will vary from one woman to another and lasts longer than two weeks.
Symptoms of postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression might affect a woman in a variety of ways and in the absence of treatment might last for many months or longer. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. The following are some symptoms of postpartum depression:
• a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
• loss of interest in the world around you – and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
• lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
• trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
• feeling that you are unable to look after your baby
• problems concentrating and making decisions
• loss of appetite or an increased appetite
• feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you “can’t be bothered”)
• severe anxiety and panic attacks
• feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
• difficulty bonding with your baby – with a feeling of indifference – and no sense of enjoyment in his or her company
• frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
• thinking about suicide and self-harm.
If you think you may be depressed, talk to your obstetrician or healthcare provider as soon as possible, so you can access the support you need. Postpartum depression is not a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it is simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.
Many individual with depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they are depressed. They may not be aware of signs and symptoms of depression. If you suspect that a friend or loved one has postpartum depression, or is developing postpartum psychosis, help them seek medical attention immediately. Do not wait and hope for improvement. Show them that you care – even arrange for them to see a doctor and then accompany them during the visit. They will thank you later.
What causes postpartum depression?
We are not totally sure, at this time, what causes postpartum depression. There is no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role. Postpartum depression can develop after the birth of any child, not just the first.
Treatment and recovery time vary, depending on the severity of your depression and your individual needs. Postpartum depression is often treated with psychotherapy (also called talk therapy or mental health counseling), medication or both. If you have postpartum depression have a talk with your doctor who will discuss various treatment options with you and arrange for further professional help. It is important to continue treatment after you begin to feel better. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse of symptoms.
Postpartum depression is a common medical condition that is often dismissed as not too serious, but it can have many complications and needs treatment. The birth of a baby can trigger several powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. In addition, some women of no fault of their own develop depression. Postpartum depression can have severe effects for the mother, spouse, offspring, relatives and friends. This condition can be successfully treated once it is diagnosed and the woman gets help. Unfortunately, many women fall through the cracks and suffer unnecessarily. Postpartum depression is a common condition. Let us talk about it.
Ask Your Doctor is a health education column and is not a substitute for medical advice from your physician. The reader should consult his or her physician for specific information concerning specific medical conditions. While all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that all information presented is accurate, as research and development in the medical field are ongoing, it is possible that new findings may supersede some data presented.
Dr Brett Hodge MB BS DGO MRCOG, is an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist and Family Doctor who has over thirty-two years in clinical practice. Dr Hodge has a medical practice in The Johnson Building in The Valley (Tel: 264 4975828).