Within a day of giving birth, I was filling out a postpartum depression screening form at the hospital. It asked how I was coping, if I was still seeing the bright side of things, and whether I was crying more or less than usual. It always strikes me as a little funny because I can’t imagine postpartum depression hitting THAT quickly, but I do understand why they do it: it serves as a prescreen and a basis for comparison for future screens. Sure enough, at my four-week postpartum checkup, I was filling out another form at my OB/GYN’s office to see how I was doing.
Having a new baby can be stressful, and new moms shouldn’t have to deal with feeling depressed on top of all of the additional demands on them. That’s why we wanted to share these signs of postpartum depression from Marcel Favetta, M.D., OB/GYN at Geisinger Health System. Postpartum depression is treatable, so don’t hesitate to get help if any of this rings a bell.
Postpartum Depression: What You Need to Know
It is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of women will suffer from perinatal depression or anxiety following childbirth. That statistic is augmented by the fact that three percent will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following delivery. It’s important, however, to be able to distinguish between what we like to call the “baby blues” and postpartum depression. In the first few days or weeks following delivery, women may cry for no reason, have trouble eating, sleeping or making choices, question whether they can handle caring for a baby, have difficulty concentrating and may just be overall anxious, sad or irritable. These symptoms will come and go randomly, but when you’re dealing with the baby blues, this should subside within a few days to two weeks.
Postpartum depression involves similar, but more severe symptoms and can occur up to one year following childbirth. The symptoms will also be more consistent. This can be for several reasons — probably a combination of many factors — including:
• Changes in hormone levels — estrogen and progesterone decrease sharply in the hours after childbirth.
• History of depression — women who have been depressed at any time before, during or after pregnancy are at a higher risk for postpartum depression.
• Emotional factors — some women may feel doubt about their parenting skills. We see this especially when a pregnancy is unplanned.
• Fatigue — women exert a lot of energy during childbirth and the exhaustion can contribute to depression.
• Lifestyle factors — women who lack support upon their return home can struggle to cope with the stress of recovering from childbirth and transitioning to parenthood.
Top Ten Signs of Postpartum Depression
1. Loss of appetite
3. Overwhelming fatigue
4. Lack of joy in life
5. Lack of interest in sex
6. Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
7. Severe mood swings
8. Difficulty in bonding with your baby
9. Withdrawal from family and friends
10. Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you feel you are suffering from postpartum depression, it’s vital that you contact your doctor as soon as possible — you don’t need to wait for your postpartum checkup. Postpartum depression can be treated with antidepressants or through talk therapy (speaking with a psychologist or therapist about managing your feelings). Antidepressants, however, can be passed on to your baby through breast milk — albeit in very, very small levels — so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Finally, if you have a history of depression or are currently being treated for depression, you should notify your doctor as soon as possible in your pregnancy, even before becoming pregnant if possible. Your doctor may suggest beginning a treatment regimen immediately after childbirth.
A big thanks to Dr. Favetta for sharing this important information. Have you ever dealt with postpartum depression? —Erin