Having a child can trigger a flood of emotions including joy and happiness as well as fear and anxiety. Some women feel more of the negative feelings immediately after giving birth because of the sudden drop in hormones. Crying, anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping are commonly called having “the baby blues,” and about 80% of women experience these adverse feelings.
These baby blues should diminish after about two weeks. If they continue and become more severe, then you may have postpartum depression, which affects about one in nine women.
Causes and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
There are many factors, both physical and emotional, that contribute to postpartum depression. One primary reason is the fluctuation of hormones after giving birth.
When you’re pregnant, your levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at an all-time high. After birth they plummet, which can create chemical changes in your brain. Additionally, your thyroid hormone can also drop, which further contributes to feelings of depression.
Lack of sleep can also make it difficult to adjust to your new life with a baby. Feelings of anxiety, being overwhelmed, and stress can all contribute to your moods.
Symptoms of postpartum depression go beyond just feeling down. They include:
- Crying a lot
- Thoughts of harming your baby
- Thoughts of harming yourself
- Not feeling bonded with your baby
- Not having interest in your baby
- Memory problems
- Low energy
Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can affect women of any age or background. But there are factors before pregnancy, during pregnancy, and after giving birth that put some women more at risk for developing this condition.
Some of these factors are physiological, some are emotional, and some are situational. They include:
- A history of depression
- Bipolar disorder
- A family history of depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues
- Previous postpartum depression
- Health problems with the baby or a premature birth
- Problems nursing your newborn
- Marital or relationship problems
- Stress in other areas of your life such as work, family, or financial issues
- Age under 20
- An unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
Treatment of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can last for months or even years, so it’s important to treat it soon after it’s diagnosed. Women with high risk factors should be closely monitored during and after their pregnancy.
New mothers may not recognize the symptoms, so it can be up to friends and family to seek help for their loved one. Without treatment, postpartum depression can lead to health issues for both the mother and the child and may interfere with the essential mother-child bonding process.
At Park Avenue Women’s Center, our doctors have extensive experience diagnosing and treating women with postpartum depression. Depending on the mother’s symptoms, treatment can include counseling or antidepressant medications, or a combination of both.
For more information on postpartum depression risk factors, symptoms, and treatment, call Park Avenue Women’s Center, located in the Yorkville neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, or make an appointment online.