Postpartum Depression, Causes and Risks, Symptoms, Duration, & Treatment
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression (PPD) should not be taken lightly. You might have heard already of the “baby blues.” It is a term for new mothers that feel a little sad, worried, or fatigued. It is completely normal and usually fades in a few weeks. However, postpartum depression is a lot more powerful and lasts longer. It can cause severe mood swings, exhaustion, and a sense of hopelessness. The intensity of those feelings can make it difficult for you to care for your baby or yourself. It is a serious disorder, but it can be overcome through proper postpartum depression treatment.
Most of the time, it happens within the first three months after delivery. But, without a doubt, it is an actual mental health condition that requires proper diagnosis and postpartum treatment. Untreated postpartum depression is a problem for the mother’s health and quality of life and can affect the baby’s well-being. This is according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information .
A woman’s hormones change after childbirth. Insomnia contributes to stress. Some depression and sadness after giving birth are normal, but if they persist for more than a few weeks, postpartum depression may be present. The levels of two hormones, progesterone and estrogen, drop very fast after a new mom gives birth. Thus, this change triggers mood swings.
Those who show mild symptoms usually don’t get help. This can happen because they do not realize that what they’re experiencing is an actual condition or may not connect their feelings with the childbirth experience.
Postpartum depression can be severe. Untreated, it may lead to long-lasting or recurring depressive symptoms. Motherhood brings in various challenges that could impact both the mother and her family. Getting help for postpartum depression may seem difficult. However, it’s essential to know that postpartum treatment is available .
Causes and Risks of Postpartum Depression
Firstly, the exact cause is not clear, but there are some factors that may contribute to postpartum depression.
The moment you are pregnant, your levels of estrogen and progesterone are higher than usual. Then, within hours of giving birth, hormone levels drop back to their previous state. As a result, this abrupt change may lead to depression. Some other physical factors are:
- Low thyroid hormone levels
- Sleep deprivation
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Inadequate diet
- Underlying medical conditions
If you have had a mood disorder in the past or if mood disorders run in your family, you may be more likely to develop postpartum depression. Some emotional stressors may also include:
- Recent divorce or death of a loved one
- You or your child having serious health problems
- Social isolation
- Financial burdens
- Lack of support
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
It is normal to feel moody or fatigued after having a baby, but postpartum depression goes well beyond that. The symptoms of postpartum depression vary from person to person and even day to day. Below are the indicators If you have postpartum depression:
- Being sad or cry a lot, even when you do not know why
- Sleeping too much
- Cannot stop eating, or you are not interested in food at all
- Do not know why you are irritable, anxious, or angry
- Moods change suddenly and without warning
- Feeling out of control
- Have difficulty remembering things
- Cannot concentrate or make simple decisions
- Disconnected feeling from your baby and wonder why you are not filled with joy like you thought you would be
- Everything feels overwhelming and hopeless
- Guilty about your feelings
- You cannot open to anyone because they will think you are a bad mother or take your baby, so you withdraw
- Wanting to escape from everyone and everything
- Have intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby
These symptoms are most likely to start within a few weeks of delivery. In addition, postpartum depression sometimes does not surface until months later. Without postpartum treatment, these symptoms may continue to worsen.
How Do I Know If I Have Postpartum Depression?
Some normal changes after pregnancy can cause symptoms similar to those of depression. Many mothers feel overwhelmed when a new baby comes home. But if you have any of the following symptoms of depression for more than 2 weeks, call your doctor, nurse, or midwife:
- Feeling restless or moody
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Crying a lot
- Having thoughts of hurting the baby
- Having thoughts of hurting yourself
- Not having any interest in the baby, not feeling connected to the baby, or feeling as if your baby is someone else’s baby
- Having no energy or motivation
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Having memory problems
- Feeling worthless, guilty, or like a bad mother
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having headaches, aches and pains, or stomach problems that don’t go away
Some women don’t tell anyone about their symptoms. New mothers may feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy. They may also worry they will be seen as bad mothers. Any woman can become depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby. It doesn’t mean you are a bad mom. You and your baby don’t have to suffer. There is help. Your doctor can help you figure out whether your symptoms are caused by depression or something else.
How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?
The postpartum period generally includes the first 4–6 weeks after birth, and many cases of PPD begin during that time. But PPD can also develop during pregnancy and up to 1 year after giving birth.
The Postpartum Period (PPD) is typically divided into four distinct stages: prenatal, perinatal, early postpartum, and late postpartum. The prenatal stage covers the pregnant woman’s entire pregnancy and extends through her delivery and the initial recovery period following childbirth. The perinatal stage begins with delivery and ends 7 days later with a visit from a healthcare provider who determines whether or not there are signs of serious maternal or infant problems.
The early postpartum period lasts from 7 days after birth to 6 weeks following childbirth. The late postpartum period begins at 6 weeks and continues for up to 1 year, or until the woman’s body completely returns to its non-pregnant state. Postpartum depression can occur during any of these stages, but it most often begins in the first few months after delivery.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) is a type of clinical depression that can affect both sexes after childbirth, though it occurs more frequently in females than males. Postpartum depression can cause sadness, fatigue, anxiety, weight changes, trouble sleeping and concentrating. Postpartum Depression affects about 15-20% of mothers within the first three months
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
There are two main postpartum depression treatments: medication and therapy. It may take a few tries to find out what treatment works best for you. This type of depression can be treated with antidepressant medications, either alone or with therapy.
Antidepressants alter the chemicals that regulate mood. However, they will not work right away. It can take several weeks of taking the medication before you notice differences in your mood. You may have side effects while taking antidepressants as well. Side effects may include fatigue, decreased sex drive, and dizziness. If side effects are making your symptoms worse, tell your doctor right away.
In fact, some antidepressants are safe to take if you are breastfeeding, but others may not be. Be sure to tell your doctor if you breastfeed. For instance, if your estrogen levels are low, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy as well.
A psychiatrist, psychologist, or several mental health professionals can provide counseling. In cases where both parents show signs of depression, couples counseling or family counseling may be good options.
Coping and support
The already stressful, exhausting period following a baby’s birth is more difficult when depression occurs. But remember, postpartum depression is never anyone’s fault. It’s a common medical condition that needs treatment.
So, if you’re having trouble coping with postpartum depression, talk with a therapist. Ask your doctor or therapist about local support groups for new moms or women who have postpartum depression.
The sooner you get help, the sooner you’ll be fully equipped to cope with depression and enjoy your new baby.
8 Types of Psychotherapy for Postpartum Depression Treatment
One of the best ways to treat a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder like postpartum depression is through therapy. Symptoms of depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, OCD, and adjustment can be understood, worked through, and alleviated though psychotherapy, but what this treatment actually looks like can vary tremendously.
So, what is psychotherapy, exactly? While a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), Psychologist (PsyD or PhD) can all provide psychotherapy support, what this support actually looks like may be different depending on that particular therapist’s approach to treatment. And so “I am seeing a therapist” can mean something very different for each person.
Below are different types of therapy that are most used in the treatment of a postpartum mood and anxiety disorder like postpartum depression:
Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
Interpersonal Psychotherapy is currently thought to be one of the most effective therapy models for treating PPD. IPT is based on the premise that postpartum distress is rooted in four “problem areas”:
1. Grief: Acknowledging the losses that occur to sense of self, changes in relationships, or more specific loss.
2. Role Transitions: Life stage transitions and social transitions including loss of independence and changing social networks.
3. Interpersonal Disputes: Ones that frequently occur after the birth of a child including unmet expectations and intimacy struggles within partnerships.
4. Interpersonal Deficits: Looking at struggles with attachment in other relationships that may be causing distress.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is best known for its efficacy in treating anxiety including OCD. It works with the understanding that the way we think affects the way that we feel, and so treatment is focused on helping mom have control over her thoughts so that she feels more able to change them. A CBT therapist will work with a mom to identify and acknowledge her automatic thoughts, evaluate these thoughts and become aware of when these thoughts are not helpful, explore and change underlying beliefs, differentiate between realistic and false threats, and develop new and more helpful perspectives.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
DBT began as a treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder, but is now known to be effective in many instances where distress is prominent. Like CBT, DBT uses practice and homework as a part of its process. DBT teaches skills in the following categories: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT is often supported through both group and individual therapy and follows a specific guideline for teaching skills to reduce symptoms related to distress.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is one of the earliest types of psychotherapy and focuses on unconscious and past experiences in understanding current behavior. Psychodynamic psychotherapists believe that our earliest childhood experiences have a direct impact on our present distress, and that when moms are able to identify and accept these experiences as playing a role they are able to begin the process of healing and becoming less entangled in the past.
Solution-Focused Brief Psychotherapy
Solution-Focused Brief Psychotherapy focuses on a specific issue and works toward positive change. Unlike other therapies that identify early experiences as playing a role in current distress, solution-focused therapy stays away from past problems and highlights, and instead, on a mom’s strengths and skills.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is currently thought to be one of the most effective types of therapy when working through a traumatic experience and is being used more in the treatment of postpartum PTSD. This specialized type of therapy requires specific training and credentialing. EMDR uses elements of both CBT and Psychodynamic therapy along with specific techniques that are used to reduce the sensory impact of traumatic memories.
Group therapy uses the role of community in support. A true group therapy session is facilitated by one or more trained psychotherapists and uses the dynamics that occur between members of the group to help identify problem areas and interpersonal distress.
Couples Therapy provides a space for partners to be heard during a time of crises. In a couples therapy setting, recurrent negative patterns within the relationship will be addressed and couples will learn communication and listening strategies necessary in working through these challenges.
Medications for Postpartum Depression
Antidepressants have a direct effect on the brain. They alter the chemicals that regulate mood. They won’t work right away, though. It can take several weeks of taking the medication before you notice a difference in your mood.
Some people have side effects while taking antidepressants. These may include fatigue, decreased sex drive, and dizziness. If side effects seem to be making your symptoms worse, tell your doctor right away.
Some antidepressants are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding, but others may not be. Be sure to tell your doctor if you breastfeed.
If your estrogen levels are low, your doctor may recommend hormone therapy.
Similarly, to new mothers, these “baby blues” are normal in men and tend to fade away as everyone makes the transition. Also, men can develop a type of postpartum depression too, called paternal postnatal depression.
Symptoms of depression are similar in men and women, but for new fathers, it is harder to recognize. New fathers do not have follow-up exams with doctors like new mothers do, so depression can go unnoticed. Another factor is that men are less likely to report symptoms of depression, even though first-time fathers tend to have a higher level of anxiety in the weeks following birth.
Postpartum depression in men may be related to lack of sleep, stress, and the changing family dynamics. Another risk factor is having previous depression or other mood disorders. If that is the case, you should talk to your doctor before the baby is born.
There are numerous potential risk factors that can also contribute to the development of postpartum depression in men. According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Some of the risk factors are the history of depression, marital discord, poverty, maternal depression, and unintended pregnancy. 
Further Postpartum Treatments
New fathers, like new mothers, should also try to get a support system such as joining a depression support group or spending time out with friends or family.
For instance, you are having postpartum substance abuse, it could also cause postpartum depression. Postpartum substance abuse is a continuation of drug or alcohol use that occurred prior to or during pregnancy. Seek out professional aid to help you get out of this dangerous situation, for you and for your family.
We Level Up NJ Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All working as a team providing different types of mental illness treatments, including postpartum depression treatment, for successful recovery.
At the We Level Up NJ treatment center, we provide world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. All working as a team providing primary SUD treatment along with primary substance abuse and co-occurring secondary Postpartum Depression treatment for successful recovery. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions. Your call is private and confidential and there is never any obligation.