Postpartum Depression – Causes, Symptoms, Tests, Treatment, Tips

“Baby Blues” is common in mothers who have recently delivered the baby. However, if the signs of depression persist for longer than a week in new moms, it suggests the occurrence of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression differs from “baby blues” in a way that it does not disappear quickly. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feeling of worthlessness, fatigue, restless, etc.

In rare cases, new moms may develop serious complications and become hysterical. They may find it difficult to eat or sleep. In such conditions, mothers need to be hospitalized.

Causes of postpartum depression

According to the researchers, the changes in levels of hormones during and after pregnancy are responsible for postpartum depression. Other factors that may result in postpartum depression are body, mind, and lifestyle factors.

Physical changes

During the postpartum period, a mother experiences great changes in the body that may affect her mood and behaviour for days or even weeks. It is due to the sharp decline in the levels of estrogens and progesterone hormones after childbirth.

These low levels results in mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and other symptoms of postpartum depression.

Fatigue

After giving birth to a child, majority of women may feel very tired. It usually takes weeks for a woman to recover. Also, women are required to take care of child around the clock, along with household tasks.

These factors contribute to fatigue and lack of sleep for months in new moms.  It eventually leads to postpartum depression.

Lifestyle factors

Lacks of support from family members or inability to breastfeed baby are other lifestyle factors that may cause postpartum depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

Symptoms of postpartum depression in new mother can be summarised as follows:

  • Baby blues that stay for more than a week
  • Strong feelings of depression after one or two months after childbirth
  • Feelings of sadness, doubt or guilt
  • Helplessness that interfere in normal activities
  • Inability to take care for yourself
  • Trouble doing tasks at home
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of interest in things that were once pleasurable
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Worry about the baby
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming the baby
  • Suicidal tendency

Diagnostic tests of postpartum depression

A doctor will perform the following diagnostic procedures for postpartum depression. There is no X-ray or laboratory test involved.

  • Full patient medical history/evaluation
  • Personal and family psychiatric history
  • Physical Assessment
  • Thorough evaluation of symptoms
  • Questionnaire such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale

In some cases, doctors may recommend blood tests for ruling out other serious illnesses. The early diagnosis and effective treatment helps a lot in treating postpartum depression.

Treatment of postpartum depression

The treatment for postpartum depression after childbirth may involve medication and other therapies. In most of the cases, doctors employ combination of these therapies for obtaining optimal results

  • Antidepressants that can be safely given to breastfeeding mothers comprises of paroxetine, sertraline, and nortriptyline.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal therapy (IPT)

Tips for treating postpartum depression

  • Ask your family members and friends for help with baby’s needs
  • Share your feelings with your partner, family, and friends.
  • Avoid any major life changes after childbirth
  • Avoid stress and remain positive
  • Keep yourself busy and take time out for entertainment
  • Socialise with friends
  • Spend time alone with your partner
  • Take complete bed Rest
  • Sleep while your baby is sleeping
  • Share the experiences of other mothers
  • Contact various hotlines and support groups that are dedicated for women with postpartum depression