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Postpartum depression

The Postpartum Depression

There's a great deal of research and debate around the topic of Postpartum depression which is a good thing as awareness and understanding are so vital to overcoming the stigma still attached to any mental illness. Postpartum depression is so much more than that, however. It's a complex condition that combines changes physically, emotionally as well as behaviourally and affects woman usually within four weeks after giving birth. Abbreviated to PPD, diagnosis is based on the length of time between delivery and onset of symptoms as well as the severity of depression experienced.

So What Exactly Is Postpartum Depression?

It's directly linked to having a baby, yes, but it also manifests itself through chemical, psychological as well as social changes occurring. PPD is a term used to describe a whole range of emotional and physical symptoms that a new mother may be experiencing. While it can undoubtedly be very frightening and overwhelming, the great news is that it can be treated with counselling as well as medication where necessary.

Think about it for a minute. The body undergoes tremendous changes during pregnancy, and after the physical labour has taken place, there is a huge and rapid drop in hormones. While it's still unclear as to whether this drop in hormones results directly in depression, one thing we do know is that the reproductive female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Such a sharp and dramatic decrease is bound to have an impact. Within just a matter of three days, that tenfold increase in hormones has stabilised back at pre-pregnancy levels which is a real shocker for the system.

What Are Some Of The Common Symptoms Of PPD?

The symptoms of PPD are not dissimilar to those that any woman will expense post-childbirth, hence why it can initially be challenging to detect the difference. Difficulty in sleeping, excessive fatigue, decreased libido, frequent and irrational mood changes, as well as changes to appetite, are all likely to be experienced. With Postpartum depression, though, more severe symptoms are likely to be exhibited, including a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, low self-esteem. In some extreme cases, even thoughts of suicide and death may come to the surface.

Are There Any Risk Factors That May Contribute Towards Getting Postpartum Depression?

In short, the answer is yes. Several factors can increase the likelihood of the risk of developing PPD. Among them are the following:

• a previous history of depression prior to or during pregnancy

• your age at the time of conceiving; the younger you are the higher the propensity

• the level of ambivalence exhibited throughout the pregnancy

• how many other children you already have

• lack of social support or living alone

• a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder

• the presence of marital conflict or problems at home

What Types of Postpartum Depression Exist?

If you are suffering from the so-called "baby blues", then you are not alone. As many as one in every ten women will develop some form of depression after delivery with one in a thousand suffering from the far more debilitating condition known as postpartum psychosis. Essentially there are three recognisable mood changes experienced by women post giving birth. Baby blues, Postpartum depression and Postpartum psychosis. Let us quickly take a look at all three and who they commonly manifest themselves.

Baby Blues

Not all women are filled with a sudden surge of euphoria. The baby blues are a real thing which occur in most women (to a greater or lesser extent) in the days immediately following childbirth. It's not unusual for a new mum to experience extreme mood swings. Feelings of elation one minute and sadness the next. Crying for no apparent reason, feeling lonely, restless, anxious sad generally a bit down in the dumps. Your baby blues might only last for a few hours, or they could go on for as long as a couple of weeks. Do not worry, it's entirely normal to feel this way, and the great news is that your case of the baby blues should go away entirely without the need for medical or health care intervention. Just having a friendly ear to speak to or joining a networking group of new mothers like yourself will probably do the trick.

Postpartum depression

This more complex but treatable condition could happen anywhere from a few days to several months following childbirth. It can happen following the birth of any child, whether it's your first or your third. Similar to the baby blues, if you are suffering from PPD, you're likely to experience a mix of emotions including anxiety, despairs, sadness as well as irritability. The difference is that these feelings will be far more overwhelming, so much so that they may prevent you from carrying out your everyday duties. If your ability to function is impeded, then talk to a medical professional and seek out a treatment plan to get you back on track. PPD can be a serious condition, especially if it's left undiagnosed and untreated, yet it's relatively straightforward to treat with the likes of counselling and medication.

Postpartum psychosis

This much more severe condition can come on very suddenly, almost out of nowhere, and is most frequently experienced within the first three months following childbirth. Symptoms can be frightening and extreme, including auditory and visual hallucinations, delusions, losing sense with reality, and exhibiting irrational and unusual feelings and behaviour. Treatment should be sought immediately if Postpartum psychosis is suspected.

Tips For Coping Post Childbirth

Do not be afraid to ask for help and to let people know that you are struggling with your emotions. We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves in today's modern society to be the perfect mum, wife, daughter, sister. It is important to be realistic about your expectations for both you and your baby. Make sure that you don't isolate yourself by maintaining relationship with family and friends and fostering a relationship with your significant other. Get plenty of sleep whenever you can, follow a sensible and highly nutritious diet, avoiding stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine during the early days.

Written by Mathilde Allemand

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