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Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in some women after giving birth......
What Is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in some women after giving birth. According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, PPD is a form of major depression that begins within 4 weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset but on the severity of the depression.
Postpartum depression is linked to chemical, social, and psychological changes that happen when having a baby. The term describes a range of physical and emotional changes that many new mothers experience. PPD can be treated with medication and counseling.
The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery. The actual link between this drop and depression is still not clear. But what is known is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By 3 days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before pregnancy.
In addition to these chemical changes, the social and psychological changes of having a baby create an increased risk of depression.
Most new mothers experience the "baby blues" after delivery. About 1 out of every 10 of these women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression after delivery. About 1 in 1,000 women develop a more serious condition called postpartum psychosis.
Dads aren’t immune. Research shows that about 1 in 10 new fathers get depression during the year their child is born.
Postpartum Depression Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of postpartum depression can be hard to detect. Many women have these symptoms following childbirth:
Frequent mood changes
With PPD, these come along with other symptoms of major depression, which aren’t typical after childbirth, and may include:
Being uninterested in your baby or feeling like you’re not bonding with them
Crying all the time, often for no reason
Severe anger and crankiness
Loss of pleasure
Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness
Thoughts of death or suicide
Thoughts of hurting someone else
Trouble concentrating or making decisions
Postpartum Depression Treatment
Postpartum depression is treated differently, depending on the type of symptoms and how severe they are. Treatment options include anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications, psychotherapy, and participation in a support group for emotional support and education.
In the case of postpartum psychosis, drugs used to treat psychosis are usually added. Hospital admission is also often necessary.
If you are breastfeeding, don't assume that you can't take medication for depression, anxiety, or even psychosis. Talk to your doctor. Under a doctor's supervision, many women take medication while breastfeeding. This is a decision to be made between you and your doctor.
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