Post-pregnancy depression is not uncommon after the birth of a baby. Approximately half of all new mothers experience some form of post pregnancy (also known as postpartum) depression. It can be quite brief and and temporary, known as the post-pregnancy "blues," but it can also be moderate or quite severe.
Feeling happy one minute and sad the next is typical of the new mom "blues." Generally, after a few weeks of the blues, new moms feel better. Post-pregnancy depression, however, is not likely to go away on its own and may require treatment. Women experiencing post-pregnancy depression will find that they are restless and anxious all the time. They may have difficulty sleeping or want to sleep all the time. (This would be beyond the lack of sleep created by the presence of a newborn.) The feelings don’t go away and interfere with daily life. Some women experiencing postpartum depression lack any interest in their baby or have thoughts of harming themselves.
While any new mother can experience either the "blues" or post-pregnancy depression, a woman is more likely to experience it if she has had it with a previous pregnancy, suffers from clinical depression or substance abuse, has experienced severe PMS or is in a stressful relationship with the baby’s other parent. Not having close family or friends to talk to and experiencing stressful life events (such as severe illness or death of a loved one) can make someone more likely to experience postpartum depression.
No single cause makes a woman vulnerable to post-pregnancy depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, the hormonal changes that take place after the birth of a baby may be a contributing factor. A dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone takes place, as well a drop in hormones produced by the thyroid gland. Changes also occur in blood volume, blood pressure and metabolism, all of which can lead to tiredness, mood swings and depression. Being sleep deprived and feeling overwhelmed by the presence of a new baby and anxiety over the baby’s well-being may also contribute to post-pregnancy depression. Other life stressors, such as the demands of other children, work, money concerns and lack of support, may also contribute to postpartum depression.
Ways to Cope
As a new mother, it is important to get plenty of rest. It is wise to try and nap when the baby does. While there’s much to get done, it is important to just do what you can and let the rest go. Reach out and ask for help from your partner and family. Talking to other mothers or a peer support group can help you sort out your feelings. Try to keep a sense of humor and recognize that it is important to take some time for yourself. Take a walk outside, enjoy a favorite hobby, spend time doing something you enjoy, even if you need to bring the baby along.
Because early intervention can help speed recovery, it is important to reach out for help if you find your symptoms are not decreasing as time goes by. If you are still depressed after two weeks, talk with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help determine whether you are experiencing postpartum depression. Your doctor may recommend talking to a psychologist, therapist or social worker. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressant medication. The medicine will also help relieve the depression. These two forms of treatment are sometimes recommended together. Untreated depression can harm both the mother and her baby, so it is important to get help when you are concerned that what you are experiencing may be post-pregnancy depression.