Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and a Little More
A huge change happens in a woman’s life and body after giving birth. Hormones are up the roof while the body’s chemistry tries to balance itself. The chemical changes involve a rapid drop in hormones after delivery. The actual link between this drop and depression is still not clear. But what is known is that the levels of estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. Then, they drop sharply after delivery. By 3 days after a woman gives birth, the levels of these hormones drop back to what they were before pregnancy. Sleep also becomes a luxury you cannot afford, and every aspect of your life will never be the same anymore. So, it goes without saying that it is normal experiencing an emotionally tough period of time after this change. The ‘baby blues’ are an underlying feeling of sadness that usually occurs the first two weeks after birth. If these feelings persist beyond the two week mark, then you might have postpartum depression. And, the symptoms are much broader than simply "sadness." In fact, many women don't recognize that they may be suffering from postpartum depression simply because sadness isn't their primary symptom. But, 1 in 10 women will have them. Let’s take a deeper look into what are the symptoms for postpartum depression, what might be the causes and how can we treat them.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can be hard to detect. Many women have these symptoms following childbirth, according to Women’s Health:
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
The saddest part is the stigma surrounding this mental problem. 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.
It is important to know are the causes that lead to postpartum depression. This would help eliminate the stigma and to let new mothers know that what they are going through is completely normal. If you have PPD, it’s not because you did anything wrong. Experts think it happens for many reasons, and those can be different for different people.
Hormonal changes may trigger symptoms of postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone are the highest they’ll ever be. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly drop back to normal, pre-pregnancy levels. Researchers think this sudden change in hormone levels may lead to depression.2 This is similar to hormone changes before a woman’s period but involves much more extreme swings in hormone levels.
Levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate how your body uses and stores energy from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms of depression. A simple blood test can tell whether this condition is causing your symptoms. If so, your doctor can prescribe thyroid medicine.
Other feelings may contribute to postpartum depression. Many new mothers say they feel:
Tired after labor and delivery
Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
Overwhelmed with a new baby
Doubts about their ability to be a good mother
Stress from changes in work and home routines
An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
Grief about loss of who they were before having the baby
A lack of free time
These feelings are common among new mothers. But postpartum depression is a serious health condition and can be treated. Postpartum depression is not a regular or expected part of being a new mother. Other factors that would increase your risks of experiencing PPD are:
A history of depression prior to becoming pregnant, or during pregnancy
Age at time of pregnancy (the younger you are, the higher the chances)
Ambivalence about the pregnancy
Children (the more you have, the more likely you are to be depressed in a later pregnancy)
Family history of mood disorders
Going through an extremely stressful event, like a job loss or health crisis
Having a child with special needs or health problems
Having twins or triplets
Having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Limited social support
Postpartum depression is treated differently, depending on the type of symptoms and how severe they are. Let’s take a look into possible treatment methods for PPD.
The common types of treatment for postpartum depression, again according to Women’s Health, are:
Therapy. During therapy, you talk to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to learn strategies to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.
Medicine. There are different types of medicines for postpartum depression. All of them must be prescribed by your doctor or nurse. The most common type is antidepressants. Antidepressants can help relieve symptoms of depression and some can be taken while you're breastfeeding. Antidepressants may take several weeks to start working.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved a medicine called brexanolone to treat postpartum depression in adult women. Brexanolone is given by a doctor or nurse through an IV for 2½ days (60 hours). Because of the risk of side effects, this medicine can only be given in a clinic or office while you are under the care of a doctor or nurse. Brexanolone may not be safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Another type of medicine called esketamine can treat depression and is given as a nasal (nose) spray in a doctor's office or clinic. Esketamine can hurt an unborn baby. You should not take esketamine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding!
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This can be used in extreme cases to treat postpartum depression.
Some women can combat their postpartum depression with simple lifestyle adjustments. There are a few things you can do to try and combat postpartum depression on your own. These include:
Ask partner to take an overnight feeding (pump if you're nursing) to help you get a longer stretch of restorative sleep
Schedule regular exercise
Get outside in the sunshine and go on walks
Pay attention to your nutrition; eat healthy
Find ways to exercise regularly
Eat a small piece of dark chocolate (yes, really!)
Another possible treatment that you should definitely consider is placenta encapsulation and consumption. The placenta is an organ that forms in a woman’s uterus after conception. Its duties include delivering oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the growing baby inside while filtering out toxins and waste. The idea of consuming it isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem. Some new mothers believe the placenta can provide a natural source of hormones and nutrients that can help ease their pain, increase their breast milk production and make them less likely to develop postpartum depression.
In case you are thinking about trying placenta encapsulation as a way to prevent postpartum depression, Wombmart is here to offer you a professional placenta encapsulation service! Women who were already feeling "over emotional", extreme fatigue or experiencing other early signs of the baby blues, have felt better within minutes of consuming their placenta capsules! The placenta is full of your endorphins, also known as "feel-good hormones", so it makes sense to safely welcome it back into your system, in a manner that's as familiar as taking your prenatal vitamins and supplements.
Wombmart is a team of professionally trained and certified placenta encapsulation specialists who remain at the forefront of birth and post-natal recovery research! Contact us and find more information in our website.