Postpartum depression is a type of depression that appears just after someone has given birth. This said it does not exclusively affect the birthing mother, as a lot of things in life change after you’ve had a baby. Tremendous physical, hormonal, emotional, social, and financial changes arise from adding a new baby into your life, and any combination of these can trigger symptoms of postpartum depression.
It is important to note, however, that since postpartum depression shares many symptoms with other types of depression, what you are feeling may not necessarily be postpartum depression. The best way to distinguish what you are going through is to understand the different types of postpartum depression.
Types of Depression After Childbirth
There are three main symptoms of depression that can come after the birth of your child. These are postpartum blues, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis. Each of these conditions has its own characterizations, symptoms, and treatment options.
Often referred to as the “baby blues,” postpartum blues affects between half and three-fourths of mothers after delivery.
It is characterized by extreme and lengthy periods of crying for no discernible reason, anxiety, and sadness that usually begins within the first week after delivery. It typically resolves itself within two weeks and does not require specific treatment.
Postpartum depression is a much more serious condition than baby blues, and your likelihood of getting it increases with each pregnancy if you have had it before.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can range from mild to severe and either appear just after delivery or gradually (up to even a year after delivery). Symptoms can also last for months; typically, postpartum depression is treated by psychotherapy and antidepressants.
The final type of postpartum depression is the most severe. Postpartum psychosis is extremely rare and affects around one in a thousand people after delivery. This condition typically occurs quickly after delivery and requires emergency medical attention as it has a much higher risk of suicide and harm to the baby.
Symptoms — such as severe agitation, mania, delusions, insomnia, paranoia, confusion, feelings of hopelessness, and hyperactivity — are severe and generally last between a few weeks and several months. Treatment for postpartum psychosis typically includes hospitalization, medication, and psychotherapy.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Since we are talking about postpartum depression in this piece, we will dive deeper into the symptoms you may experience with this particular type of depression here.
Common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, guilty, or worthless.
- Feeling on edge or worrying excessively.
- Losing energy or motivation to perform daily activities.
- Crying for no reason or crying excessively.
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking.
- Changes in appetite or sleep habits.
- Losing interest in hobbies or things you enjoy.
- Lack of interest in your baby or wanting to harm or get rid of your baby.
- Suicidal thoughts or wishing you were dead.
There are a few factors that can increase your risk of having postpartum depression. These are:
- Having a personal or familial history of depression.
- Being ambivalent about the pregnancy.
- Experiencing relationship conflict.
- Pregnancy complications.
- Being younger than 20 years old.
- Being a single parent.
- Having a baby with special needs.
- Having limited social support during and after the pregnancy.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
In order to know for sure what causes postpartum depression, we still need to do more research. However, many believe that the combination of the swift changes in hormones postpartum (from extremely high levels of estrogen and progesterone to normal pre-pregnancy levels) and the social and psychological changes that come with having a baby are the biggest cause of postpartum depression.
How to Cope With Postpartum Depression
Each parent’s experience as a new parent is going to be different. Some people will never have to go through postpartum depression, while others may end up going through severe postpartum depression. Know that it is not easy to raise a baby. Every family will have its ups and downs, and you do not have to suffer alone.
So, without further ado, here are some tips to help you cope with postpartum depression.
Eat Healthy Foods
While simply eating healthy meals will not magically cure your postpartum depression, it can help ensure that your body gets the nutrients it needs to get better. Our bodies play much more of a role in our mental state than many of us give them credit for. Our stomachs, in particular, can play an instrumental role in how we feel — this is typically referred to as the gut-brain connection.
So, while eating whole and nutritious foods may not solve your depression, it can help alleviate some of the symptoms you are feeling and help you feel better.
Exercise releases endorphins in our brains. These chemicals help us to feel happier and can help to naturally improve our mood — even during periods of stress and depression.
You do not have to become an Olympic athlete or start bodybuilding to get these benefits either. A simple walk (maybe with your baby in tow in a stroller or baby carrier) can be a great way to get some movement and fresh air into your day.
Get Enough Rest
We know you’re trying. Caring for a baby is challenging, and oftentimes one of the most difficult things to deal with is the sleep schedule — or lack thereof. The truth is that sleep is essential to our overall health and helps manage our bodies. If your baby is not sleeping through the night (which is very common for newborns), try to take naps throughout the day.
The bottom line here is to get sleep when you can. The more sleep-deprived you are, the harder your depressive symptoms will hit you.
Pick Up a Hobby
Whether you love reading mystery novels, painting landscapes, learning a new language, playing video games, or knitting socks, a great way to help relieve depressive symptoms is by doing things you enjoy. Pick a hobby you’ve always loved (or find a new one to try out) and carve time out of your day to pursue it. This can help improve your mood and show your mind that you are caring for yourself by making time in the day for yourself.
See a Therapist
Sometimes you can’t do everything on your own. There is nothing wrong with this; realistically, the earlier you seek help when you know you need it, the better off you will be. If you have tried the tips mentioned above or are simply looking for someone to help you through this time in your life, a therapist is an excellent resource. Not only can therapists provide expert guidance on managing your depressive symptoms, but they can also provide you with professional therapeutic techniques to help you overcome your postpartum depression.
Whether you are currently experiencing feelings that you think may be postpartum depression, or your delivery date is coming up, and you are feeling anxious about how everything will be once you deliver, Love Heal Grow is here to help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us today to get in touch with one of our therapists.