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Postpartum Depression

Written by: Editorial Staff.

Postpartum Nonpsychotic Depression (PPD) is a depressed state that occurs for a woman 3 to 5 days after giving birth and can last for months. This mood disorder is a fleeting state of heightened emotions that are experienced by at least half of all women who give birth. A woman with PPD may cry easily, feel restless, irritable, sad and experience difficulty sleeping. Hormonal changes, exhaustion, life changes and sleep deprivation common with a new baby can cause this condition. Levels of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and cortisol are decreased dramatically within 48 hours after delivery.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

10 to 20% of women develop postpartum depression within a few months of giving birth. This form of clinical depression interferes with a new mother’s ability to care for her baby. It can make breastfeeding difficult and may interfere with the attachment and bonding process.Symptoms usually appear any time from 24 hours to a few months after delivery

Symptoms of PPD Include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Crying spells and inability to stop crying
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to give pleasure
  • Sleeping trouble
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Feeling rejected and worthless
  • Impaired concentration and inability to focus
  • Feeling hopeless and inadequate as a mother
  • Detached feelings toward baby
  • Negative feelings toward baby
  • Worry about baby’s health
  • Guilt for struggling as a new mom

Factors Increasing the Risk of PPD Include:

  • Previous diagnosis of major depressive disorder or a mood disorder
  • Stress
  • Inadequate Support
  • Difficult birth or high risk pregnancy
  • Marital difficulties
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Prior history of mental illness
  • Prior miscarriage or stillbirth

Some women suffering from postpartum depression have thoughts about and fears of hurting their infant. Women who have these thoughts rarely act on them. When a woman with severe postpartum depression becomes suicidal she may have thoughts of killing her self or her child. This does not stem from anger but from a desire to not abandon her child and a belief that she cannot care for them.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is the most severe and serious postpartum disorder. This form of psychosis is rare and requires immediate medical care.The symptoms of postpartum psychosis are associated with mood disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or psychosis. This form of psychosis is difficult to treat because a woman experiencing it may rally herself and appear to be well temporarily fooling her doctor and family into thinking she has recovered. If left untreated, the likelihood of recurring bouts of the disorder is likely with each pregnancy.

Symptoms of Postpartum Psychosis Include:

  • Delusions and false beliefs
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to sleep
  • Agitation and mood swings

When to seek medical care:

  • When mood swings and sadness continue for more than a few days after giving birth
  • When strong feelings of anger or depression remain 1 to 2 months after giving birth
  • When feelings of inadequacy and an inability to cope interfere with ability to care for oneself and their infant

If any of the following occur call a doctor or 911 immediately:

  • When there are thoughts present of harming oneself, baby or other children
  • If thoughts that the baby is evil occur
  • Hearing voices or seeing this not present in reality
  • Inability to sleep more than 2 hours a night

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