The postpartum depression is often confused with the baby blues state, which is much less bothersome. The mother may feel worried about the baby, be sad and prone to crying, but she doesn’t lose touch with the baby, as is the case with postpartum depression. Baby blues impacts as many as 50 to 80 percent of young moms, whereas with the postpartum depression it is only 10-20 percent.
The postpartum sadness (baby blues) is a very common occurrence, affecting about 50–80% women after birth. It is a woman’s physiological reaction to childbirth that doesn’t last long and goes away on its own. The beginning of this state usually takes place within the first few days after the birth, and the symptoms peak around the 4th–5th day. The postpartum sadness can last from about a dozen hours to several days and usually goes away around the 10th day from birth.
The postpartum depression develops within a few to about a dozen weeks from the childbirth, and the severity of symptoms and disorders is much greater than in case of postpartum sadness. This disorder impacts about 7–20% women.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
The postpartum depression is similar to other episodes of clinical depression in how it manifests itself, but there have been separate, characteristic traits of it described, among which are:
- obsessively recurring thoughts and worries in the young mother that due to her incompetence, lack of experience, irresponsibility or ineptitude, she is incapable of optimally taking care of her child, or even that she can inadvertently harm it. For that reason, contact with the child might be a stressful experience for the woman that she will try to avoid, which is usually accompanied by feeling guilty, hurt or helpless;
- mood swings, tendency to cry and complains about insufferable sadness, fatigue, helplessness, demanding help and emphasizing own powerlessness and being convinced about losing widely defined attractiveness;
- being convinced that her own child causes unique problems with taking care of it, more than other children;
- states of intensified fear, sometimes with panic attacks, worrying and excessive, inadequate concern about own and baby’s health accompanied by hypochondriac symptoms;
- feeling lonely, abandoned, misunderstood, as well as struggling with expressing emotions – especially love (towards loved ones, including the baby);
- tendency to cry, insomnia, impaired concentration, frequent complaints about somatic problems;
- feeling guilty and Suicidal.
Diagnostics and treatment
To make a diagnosis, the doctor or psychologist will need to have a conversation and conduct different psychological tests where he will ask about the mood, thoughts and behavior. It is also a good idea to visit an internist as the lowered mood might be caused by such things as Thyroid illnesses. The postpartum depression requires treatment, which utilizes such things as pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy and psychoeducation.
An incredibly important thing is support from the closest family. Anti-depression drugs are used as well. Since these are left in mother’s milk, each treatment requires a Doctor’s supervision. The lowest possible drug dosage is used that can cure the illness. After about 6 weeks, the effectiveness of the treatment is evaluated. The average treatment time is 7 months. If there is no improvement after 6 weeks, a visit to a psychiatrist is needed.