What is post partum depression (PPD)?
Post partum depression is usually experienced by women post birth. It can begin to occur anytime within the first two months of birth. This depression is very different from baby blues that nearly 90% of women tend to experience post birth. According to the Centre for Disease control and prevention, postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers in the first year after giving birth. However, due to the stigma attached to this condition not many of these women admit to feeling depressed or are even unable to recognise that what they are feeling is beyond the regular hormonal surge post birth. With some help and support from the family and medical experts, it is possible to make a complete recovery from this condition to resume normal life.
How is it different from a regular hormonal imbalance post birth/baby blues?
Normally baby blues happen because of the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone hormone levels which are soaring high during pregnancy. It usually gets better by the end of the first month post child birth. The symptoms experienced are also mild as compared to those experienced during PPD. The common symptoms noted in case of baby blues are frequent crying/more than usual emotional outbursts, feeling stressed or overwhelmed. If these symptoms start to get worse beyond the first month, then you could be experiencing PPD. The key difference between baby blues and PPD is that the latter can be experienced by the woman anytime within the first year of childbirth and the symptoms could get intense over a period of time. PPD can spiral downwards and the symptoms can worsen with time if no help is sought for the same.
What causes post partum depression?
There is no definite cause that can trigger post partum depression but a number of factors such as hormonal changes, lack of sleep, stress, unstable environment or even genetic factors can be responsible for causing post partum depression. It is also possible that you are a victim of this condition for no obvious reason. The important thing is to not judge or dismiss what you may be feeling due to PPD but seek the right kind of support from your family and doctors to help you overcome this condition.
What are some of the common symptoms of post partum depression?
Some of the common signs of post partum depression include:
• Feeling sad or low or in some cases even indifferent
• Feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, worthless/helpless most of the time.
• Being emotional often/ crying often
• Feeling angry, stressed, confused and resentful towards your partner, family or children.
• Loss of appetite/sleep/energy or lack of interest in anything around you – going out or meeting people
• Having thoughts which are harmful for the baby or yourself or even having panic attacks
• Feeling fearful and anxious
Who is most at risk of experiencing post-partum depression?
While there are some risk factors which make it more likely for you to experience PPD but it's not cast in stone that you will have PPD. They are only triggers which make the condition more likely-
• Experiencing depression symptoms during the last trimester of pregnancy
• History or genetic tendency of depression
• Stressful environment (family, financial, marital stresses)
• Unwanted pregnancy or unplanned pregnancy
• Difficult social situation which makes caring for the child challenging
Also read more about Post-Partum Mood Swings: What's Normal & What's Not