Postpartum depression is not a commonly talked about phenomena. We normally are told that postpartum will be joyful with our new baby, and perhaps you might be teary eyed for a day or two. Until recently not much thought was given to treating or preventing postpartum depression.
Most women will experience a form of depression known as the Baby Blues. This is generally seen about three days after the birth and can last about two weeks. The normal reactions for this are: crying, irritability, anger, exhaustion, tension, restlessness, anxiety, and possibly insomnia. Hormones do play a large part in this, however, some is normal and should be expected, particularly considering the stress and strain of a new baby.
A fewer percentage of the women will have true postpartum depression. This is generally characterized by a worsening of the normal symptoms, possibly postpartum panic or mania, even obsessive-compulsive disorders (including repetitive thoughts that might be repulsive). Some women will even experience post traumatic stress disorders, particularly after a traumatic birth (individually defined).
“Well I had absolutely no desire to do anything. I became obsessed with childbirth…what I did wrong… my c-section caused it. Some things that have helped me is getting vocal. Talking to ladies here (the Internet), getting involved in ICAN,” says one mother.
Very few women will go to the far extreme, but I will briefly mention postpartum psychosis. This is generally seen with most of the previous symptoms, plus hallucinations, confusion or delusions. This is very serious.
So who is at risk?
We had little information until recently about risk factors, but we have been able to determine that there are some predisposing factors for postpartum depression. We do know that there are three components to determining risk: biological, psychological, relationship factors.
- History of depression, anxiety, panic, obsessive thoughts or behavior, mania
- Prenatal depression
- Family history
- Marital conflict
- Prior episode
- Low confidence as parent
- Baby’s personality, health or disability
- Single parent
- Super woman syndrome
- Hormonal risks (thyroid imbalance, PMS, infertility, etc.)