You spent nine months carrying the extra weight, a couple of hours of labor, and now that your baby has finally arrived, it has become the happiest moment of your life. But aside from the tremendous joy, there’s the anxiousness that most first-time mothers feel, which is completely normal. But this jumble of overwhelming emotions can also lead to something you might not expect – depression.
Postpartum depression is a severe, long-lasting form of depression characterized with feelings of being afraid, alone, upset, or unloving towards the baby, plus the guilt of possessing these feelings. This kind of depression evolved from “baby blues”, which is a passing state of intensified emotions experienced by most women. In fact, 80% of women undergo such mood disturbances. They may feel irritable, sad, have trouble sleeping, or cry more easily. These symptoms are mild and disappear over several days to two weeks.
However, 10 to 20% of women develop postpartum depression that can lead to postpartum psychosis, an even more disabling and alarming condition. So, how can you determine if a person has postpartum depression or just undergoing normal baby blues? The following are indications for each condition:
• Baby Blues Symptoms
Women with baby blues often feel irritable and emotionally “on the edge”. They are easily consumed by sadness, may cry more often than usual, and also have problems sleeping. This condition is considered normal and occurs in about half of women who recently gave birth. These symptoms come at its peak at about 3 to 5 days after delivery and may last for about a week or two.
• Postpartum Depression Symptoms
This kind of depression that happens to women who have recently given birth can be categorized based on the gravity of the indications. Health professionals identify postpartum depression as postpartum nonpsychotic depression. This condition occurs within a few months of delivery to about 10 to 20% of women.
A person with postpartum depression is often depressed and can’t enjoy fun activities. As with baby blues, they also have trouble sleeping and cry often. However, women with this condition suffer from appetite problems, fatigue, and impaired concentration.
Postpartum depression may also interfere with a mom’s ability to take care of her baby. She may worry a lot about the baby’s well-being and this extreme anxiousness can lead to negative thoughts about the baby.
The feeling of being inadequate as a parent can often lead to suicidal thoughts. A woman who becomes suicidal may consider killing her baby and her other children, not because of anger, but due to a desire of not abandoning them.
Factors that may contribute to one’s postpartum depression include psychological stress, previous major depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or lack of social support from persons around her that she considers important.
• Postpartum Psychosis Symptoms
This condition is a rare yet most serious postpartum disorder. It is associated with psychosis, depression, and bipolar disorder. A woman who is observed possessing signs of postpartum psychosis is required to seek immediate treatment.
Aside from agitation, inability to sleep and mood swings, symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, or both. After 3 weeks of giving birth, a woman at risk of postpartum psychosis may have false beliefs and/or see or hear things that are not there.
A woman with postpartum psychosis can appear well temporarily in order to fool physicians and other health professionals into thinking that she has recovered. However, the condition is still severe and continues to affect her ability to care for her infant. With this, it is important for the spouse and other family members to immediately report the condition to a physician if they observe a person with signs of psychosis.
If the postpartum psychosis becomes untreated, it is more likely to recur after giving birth to succeeding children. Another alarming fact is that a woman with this condition who accommodates the thought of harming her children is at a high risk of acting on them.
Preventive Measures on Postpartum Disorder
If you’re feeling depressed during this supposedly exciting phase of motherhood, you may want to consult a doctor regarding this emotion. Take note of the changes and unusual behaviors that last beyond two weeks. You may be embarrassed and reluctant to admit you are feeling this way, but seeking professional help is a vital step to recovery. Do not just sit and wait for improvement, especially when you have postpartum psychosis. Life-threatening behaviors should be remedied before it’s too late.