About 1 in 10 mothers experience postpartum depression (PPD), according to the Cleveland Clinic. While new parents often expect to be happy and excited, they may face symptoms that seem confusing and unfounded. It is important for new parents to understand the symptoms and risk factors of postpartum depression so they can seek professional help as soon as possible.
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Signs, Symptoms, and Risk Factors
The Cleveland Clinic defines postpartum depression as “a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that occur after giving birth that are attributed to the chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby.”
Statistics of Postpartum Health of Parents
50% to 75% of new mothers experience the “baby blues.” After delivery, 15% develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression. Studies also indicate 1 in 1,000 women develop postpartum psychosis, and that suicide is the second-most common cause of death in postpartum women. Additionally, studies show that postpartum anxiety affects more than 1 in 6 women and 1 in 5 first-time mothers, and that postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) affects 1 to 3 in 100 childbearing women. It’s also been determined that up to 25% of fathers experience depression in the first year postpartum.
Common symptoms of PPD can range from fatigue and anxiety to frequent crying and severe mood swings. There can also be behavioral symptoms like withdrawing from family and friends or difficulty bonding with a child. The symptoms may be mild to severe, may appear arbitrarily up to a year after delivery, and can last several weeks to a year. There are also a few serious PPD symptoms that should spur women to contact their health care providers immediately if exhibited. These include thoughts of self-harm or harm to the baby, recurring suicidal thoughts, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities nearly every day for two weeks.
There are certain risk factors associated with PPD. These factors include a personal or family history of depression, limited access to health care, alcohol abuse, and limited social support.
Postpartum Depression Therapy and Treatment
Once individuals have been diagnosed with PPD, they can pursue a variety of treatment options to help them achieve a healthy mind and body.
The Path to Well-Being
Postpartum mothers and fathers can pursue a variety of psychotherapy options which could help improve their well-being. One of the significantly effective options is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which involves identifying, understanding, and changing thinking and behavior patterns to help individuals change the way they feel. CBT provide a hands-on, practical approach to problem solving, and can help individuals learn to control their thinking, maintain a sense of control and self-confidence, and learn lifelong coping skills.
Another effective therapy, interpersonal therapy, addresses interpersonal issues influencing depression. The therapy, which typically involves 12 to 16 one-hour weekly sessions, entails gathering information about the nature of a person’s depression and interpersonal experience.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR) is another therapy that can help. EDMR helps the brain reprocess memories and information, which could reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts. It also stimulates the brain in the same way as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Finally, postpartum mothers and fathers could engage in group therapy. This practice draws upon a variety of cognitive-behavioral techniques like mindfulness to help individuals develop skills for regulating emotions, tolerating distress, and managing relationships.
In some cases, postpartum mothers and fathers could be prescribed antidepressants, medications that affect the brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. The common class of prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, such as fluoxetine and sertraline. Antidepressants are generally safe for use during breastfeeding.
Tips for a Healthier Lifestyle
There are several self-care methods individuals can use to help cope with PPD. These include exercise, healthy diet, scheduling time to pursue a hobby or simply unwind, relationship-building, and seeking and accepting help or advice from trusted individuals.
Postpartum Depression Resources
The road to recovery from PPD should be taken with the guidance of a medial health provider. Parents with PPD should feel free to ask questions and access the resources available to them.
How to Prepare for a Medical Appointment
Before your appointment, it’s important to create lists that lay out the symptoms you’ve experienced, your physical and mental health conditions, and the medications you currently take. You should also keep in mind key questions to ask your doctor, such as inquiries about your diagnosis, treatment options, prevention options, length of treatment, and side effects of potential medications.
There are also several key resources postpartum parents can access to receive further aid. These include Postpartum Progress, MentalHealth.gov, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Using the latest therapy techniques and medications, mental health professionals can safely and effectively treat PPD. New mothers and fathers can soon expect to fully enjoy the wonderful experience of raising a child and building a family.