It's important to distinguish between Baby Blues and postpartum depression. Baby Blues is a feeling of sadness affecting most women (80%) after giving birth. It usually occurs on the 3rd postpartum day and leads to sudden emotional ups and downs where one often is close to tears. In such cases, you will need more sleep, rest and time to adapt to the new life with a newborn.
Baby blues typically peak around the 3rd day after giving birth and it improves or at least stays the same within the first week. If these feelings won't decrease in strength and your psychological well-being worsens, it may imply that you may be developing postpartum depression. It's a condition in need of professional help and treatment.
How do I know if I have postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a complex mix of psychological as well as behavioral changes. It usually occurs within the first couple of months after giving birth and affects 10-20% of women after pregnancy in the United States. However, it can take longer for some to realize that they have been affected.
The correlation between the events inside the body and the development of postpartum depression is not entirely clear. Still, we know that it has to do with a sudden drop of hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone. During pregnancy, the body produces 10 times more of these hormones than the average before the pregnancy. They then fall very quickly within just a couple of days. We also know that insomnia, pain, and overall condition can affect a person's mental health and the combination of these factors seem to be the underlying cause of postpartum depression.
There are multiple risk factors
The women possessing the highest risk to be affected by postpartum depression are those who:
- Have history of depression in the past or in pregnancy
- Have had or have one or several other forms of mental health illness such as anxiety.
- Have been exposed to violence in earlier relationships.
- Have a history of bad psychological health in her family.
- Had depression or anxiety during her pregnancy.
There are also other, less prevalent factors, which are:
- Traumatic life events.
- Lacking support from her partner and other people in her social life.
- Socioeconomic struggles.
Other triggering factors can be:
- Birth complications.
- A traumatic birth or difficult experience.
- Complications arriving with the newborn baby.
- The child is born prematurely.
- Having multiples such as twins or triplets.
Especially vulnerable are women with migration backgrounds, as they may experience feelings of isolation and difficulties with language and communication.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
Firstly, it's important to be attentive to how you feel. For instance, How does it feel now compared to a week or a day ago? Do you feel better inside, or do you feel worse? If you don't feel better, then that may be something to pay close attention to. The following examples are typical signs of postpartum depression:
- Feeling exhausted.
- Difficulties in finding joy in what gave you joy and happiness before.
- Difficulties with falling asleep, feeling very sleepy, lack of energy and ability to concentrate.
- You have feelings of guilt, hopelessness and feelings of being worthless.
- You feel anxiety, worry, panic and a rapidly changing mood.
- You gain or lose weight, have problems eating or keep feeling hungry all the time.
- You lack the energy to take care of your hygiene and struggle with taking care of your newborn.
- You avoid meeting friends and relatives.
- You have thoughts about injuring yourself or your newborn.
- You struggle to concentrate and make decisions.
It's great both for you and your support network to gain awareness
If you feel that the description above applies to you, there may be a risk of being affected by postpartum depression. It's important that you are aware of this and therefore pay attention to your well-being. Depression does not just cause negative consequences for the affected, but the child, partner and others in the family as well. The difference between depression after pregnancy and depression during other times is that the family is in a vulnerable state, especially the baby. By taking care of your emotional health, you also take care of others.
You, your partner and the people around you have a responsibility to pay attention to how you feel and help you with support and treatment. That way you can receive treatment early. It can also lead to your environment allowing you to rest, give you the pain relief you need, and make sure that you get the food and drink you need to recover after the pregnancy and birth.
EPDS - A place for you to talk about how you feel
After pregnancy, most mothers get to fill out a form called EPDS. It stands for Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It's often done during a visit to your healthcare provider but can also take place at your pediatrician's office. The form is developed and validated to find signs of depression after a pregnancy. It is an excellent opportunity for you to talk about how you feel, and the person providing you with the test can also help you contact a psychologist or therapist if you need it.
There are treatments for postpartum depression. It is often done through talk therapy by a licensed mental health therapist, but medicines can also help. These medicines don't affect the child if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, but medical treatment shall always be done in combination with mental health therapy. You can also extend your maternity leave to seek treatment for postpartum depression before returning back to work. Successful treatment of postpartum depression can take up to six months, but for some it takes longer.
Be kind to yourself and have the courage to talk about how you feel. If you feel affected, you shall know that you are not alone and shouldn't face it on your own. Ask for help, and don't hesitate to seek medical advice when you feel that you need it.
Sources: - Rikshandbok i barnhälsovård. (2019). Depression hos nyblivna mammor. https://www.rikshandboken-bhv.se/livsvillkor/foraldraskap/depression-hos-nyblivna-mammor/ - Statens beredning för medicinsk och social utvärdering. (2014). Förebyggande av postpartumdepression – Psykosocial och psykologisk profylax mot depression efter förlossningen. https://www.sbu.se/sv/publikationer/sbu-kommentar/forebyggande-av-postpartum-depression/ - Vårdguiden 1177. (2020) Depression i samband med att du får barn. https://www.1177.se/Stockholm/sjukdomar--besvar/psykiska-sjukdomar-och-besvar/depression/depression-i-samband-med-att-du-far-barn/