Postpartum depression, abbreviated PPD, is defined as a severe long-term depression following childbirth. This is not to be confused with baby blues which are a more common temporary situation. While baby blues are characterized by mood swings and crying spells that ease, PPD is more intense with persistent mood swings. An extreme form of this disorder is known as postpartum psychosis. The good news is that this condition can be treated once identified. To follow the correct course of treatment, it is imperative to identify the symptoms of the disorder. Listed below are some of the signs that are associated with PPD.
Even before we talk about the symptoms of postpartum depression, it is important to note that this is usually an escalation of baby blues which last a couple of weeks. With baby blues, the woman will experience irritability, troubled sleep, anxiety and may cry on end. PPD symptoms are intense and will often come in the way of proper care for the baby. The symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite so that feeding well which is required to take adequate care of the baby, is not possible.
- An intense form of irritability that borders on anger. In many cases, this anger is directed at the child.
- An overwhelming feeling of fatigue.
- Sadness and feeling swamped up by life’s demands.
- Lack of interest in sex even for women who have never had low libido.
- Mums suffering from postpartum depression will usually feel inadequate, sometimes to the point of not caring for their baby.
- Withdrawal from support systems such as friends and family.
- Suicidal thoughts with the aim of ending all the pain and hurt.
If left unaddressed, PPD may last for months, even years.
What is the difference between postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis?
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are more intense and range from having hallucinations to disorientation and actual harm to both mother and baby. With such a condition, it is important to get immediate medical attention. Some mothers will be fearful or ashamed of opening up about depression after childbirth, and this is cause for alarm.
While there is no single attribute to what causes such depression, there are a number of conditions that predispose a mother to PPD.The physical changes that come along with motherhood, especially the sharp drop in hormonal levels are thought to hasten this form of depression. They also contribute to mood swings as outlined above. New mothers will often find it difficult to adjust to the sudden lack of sleep and the overwhelming responsibilities contribute significantly to the anxiety that characterizes postpartum depression. Lifestyle changes also contribute to this since babies come with numerous responsibilities. If one has had a history of this depression in their family, it is likely that they may experience it. Stress during pregnancy has also been shown to be a risk factor for PPD. A weak support system also contributes to the likelihood of depression after child birth. Knowing what to look out for will help a great deal.