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Childbirth brings an array of emotions. Moms and families expect positive emotions like excitement and joy as well as exhaustion and even some worry, but negative emotions are quite common. Almost 80% of moms experience the baby blues. Between demanding feeding schedules, frequent diaper changes, and erratic sleep, most moms will have mood swings, irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed, crying spells, fatigue, and insomnia within the first two to three days after delivery. However, the baby blues typically resolve on its own in one to two weeks.
Sometimes, those symptoms linger and worsen which is what happens with Postpartum Depression or PPD. Postpartum Depression is a serious medical condition. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PPD affects as many as 1 in 8 women after childbirth. Symptoms can begin as early as a few weeks following birth up to a year later. Symptoms of PPD are more severe than those seen with the baby blues and may include:
Women who have experienced miscarriages or stillbirths can also experience Postpartum Depression. Per the CDC, about 10% of new dads can develop PPD as well.
There is an exceedingly rare subtype of Postpartum Depression known as Postpartum Psychosis that is considered a medical emergency. The meaning of psychosis is to be out of touch with reality. Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis include confusion, paranoia, hearing voices, strange beliefs that are untrue called delusions, agitation, poor sleep, and obsessive thoughts about the health and safety of your baby. These symptoms usually appear early within the first few weeks after a baby’s birth. Moms with Postpartum Psychosis are more likely to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder rather than Major Depression. Because moms with Postpartum Psychosis may have thoughts of harming herself or her baby, this condition is a life-threatening illness that requires immediate treatment.
There is no one cause to explain why moms experience Postpartum Depression. What we do know is that PPD develops in the context of multiple factors, both emotional and physical. Hormone levels rapidly decrease after childbirth which can lead to mood swings. Also, new moms are often tired and sleep-deprived and benefit from support from significant others as well as family and friends though these social supports are not always readily available. We also know that, while PPD affects all kinds of moms irrespective of race, socioeconomic status, educational level, or number of births, there are some significant risk factors worth mentioning. Some common risk factors include: history of depression associated with a previous pregnancy; pregnancy complications such as premature birth or having a baby with medical problems; lack of social support; young maternal age; ambivalent feelings about the pregnancy; and psychosocial stressors during pregnancy such as job loss, financial limitations, involved in an abusive relationship, and if mom has her own health problems.
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The CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm