Postpartum Depression: Unique Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments
The weeks following labor and delivery often bring about intense emotions, even when all parties remain healthy and everything goes as planned. While some low moods, crying, and confusion are normal, some new mothers experience debilitating emotions in the postpartum period.
When new parents experience postpartum depression, it can mimic major depression and other mood disorders in many ways. For example, patients with any type of depression may feel hopeless or fatigued. However, even new mothers who have dealt with major depression in the past and know the symptoms can get caught off-guard by postpartum depression.
It’s important for every expectant or new mother and their loved ones to understand the signs, causes, and treatment options for postpartum depression.
How Professional Diagnose Postpartum Depression
The DSM-5, which contains the most current diagnostic criteria for all mental illnesses, calls postpartum depression “Major Depression with Peripartum Onset.” To qualify for this diagnosis, parents must present with the symptoms for either major depression right before or quickly after the birth of a baby.
Symptoms of depression vary among patients. However, the signs must be severe enough to disrupt the patient’s life. Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Severe mood swings or consistently depressed mood
- Frequent crying spells
- Excessive worry about being a good enough parent
- Isolation from friends and family
- Panic attacks
- Trouble bonding with the baby
- Decreased interest in activities the patient used to love
- Overwhelming shame, sadness, or guilt
- Impaired cognitive functions, such as decision making and concentration
- Increased irritability
- Thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you or someone you love experiences thoughts of suicide or hurting someone else, seek immediate care. Call 9-1-1, go to the nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis line immediately.
Officially, the DSM-5 recognizes postpartum depression when these symptoms begin within four weeks of giving birth. However, some experts argue that it can take up to six months for parents to notice these symptoms.
Causes of Postpartum Depression
Becoming a parent or adding more children to the family is an emotional time. Of course, parents love and adore the new baby intensely. However, loving the baby does not stop the negative emotions from coming on. No matter how much the new parents love the infant, several causes can contribute to postpartum depression, including:
- Financial worries
- Lack of sleep
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Isolation from going out less
- Worry about being a good parent
- Anxiety after a difficult or dangerous labor
- Frustration with the postpartum body
Furthermore, parents who have struggled with mental health disorders in the past appear to be more likely to develop postpartum depression than their peers.
What Can Professionals Do for Postpartum Depression?
Unfortunately, some parents avoid seeking help because they think they should feel happy and are overwhelmed with guilt when they don’t feel thrilled. Unfortunately, untreated depression can just get worse and cause more problems. It’s important to seek professional help if you believe you could have postpartum depression.
As with other types of major depression, patients can consider talk therapy, medication, or a combination of both. While some medications are not safe for breastfeeding, many are. Moms should just be sure to tell their doctors if they are breastfeeding.
If you or someone you love recently had a baby and show signs of postpartum depression, be sure to reach out for professional help. The professionals at FLBH understand the realities of postpartum depression and know how to help. Contact us today so that we can connect you with caring professionals.