Considering the many hormonal changes that happen during and after childbirth, it really should come as no surprise that many pregnant women and new mothers experience confusing mood swings. While this is normal, there does come a point when the sadness has lasted long enough and been severe enough to cause concern.
What Sets Postpartum Depression Apart?
It is completely normal for new mothers to have mood swings, sadness, irritability, trouble sleeping and anxiety - some people call these the “baby blues.” However, when a new mother's symptoms go on to include severe mood swings, withdrawal from friends and family, fatigue, intense anger and a lack of interest in life, something more serious may be the cause: postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can even cause thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby.
Postpartum depression affects 10-15% of women every year, making it a very common condition. Postpartum depression isn't the mother's fault, but she and her family may suffer if she doesn't receive the treatment she needs.
If you begin to see things that aren’t there or feel confused and paranoid, you may be suffering from a more rare and severe postpartum psychological disorder, and should contact a doctor immediately.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
No one is 100 percent sure what causes some women to get postpartum depression while others slide into motherhood blissfully. However, doctors think that the condition can be worsened by:
- Hormonal changes
- Lack of sleep
- Lifestyle changes while caring for a newborn
- Genetic predisposition
Women who have a history of depression, who are undergoing a stressful period, who lack a strong support system, or whose pregnancy was unintended are at an increased risk, though postpartum depression can happen to anyone.
If you think you may be suffering from postpartum depression, you aren't alone, and there is hope. Call your doctor if your symptoms don't lessen within two weeks, if they are getting worse, or if you are having a difficult time doing routine tasks and caring for yourself and your baby. Call your doctor immediately if you are thinking about harming yourself or your baby.
Treatments for postpartum depression range the gamut from counseling and talk therapy to medications such as antidepressants. Your doctor may also recommend simple lifestyle changes to improve your symptoms, but, make no mistake, postpartum depression must be treated by a doctor.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can last for months or even years if not treated. There is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms such as those listed above, call your OB/GYN today.