postpartum depression (PPD), also known as Postnatal Depression is a type of depression experienced by women after giving birth. It is not to be confused with the ‘baby blues’ which are normal feelings of tearfulness that approximately 85% of women experience within three to ten days of having a baby. PPD is a deeper and more intense depression which does not lift. It is extremely common and affects around one in ten women and can start anytime within the first six months after birth and affects women regardless of age, race, income level and cultural background. About a third of women show signs of PPD in pregnancy which continue after the birth. PPD can appear gradually, or suddenly and symptoms can range from very mild to severe.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
There is no single cause of Postpartum Depression, although research has shown that many different factors can influence whether or not a woman will develop it. These can include the physical, mental and emotional strain of having a baby, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors, plus lack of support from your partner, friends, and family. There are also situations and circumstances which can predispose you to become more susceptible, such as having prior experience of mental health issues. It’s important to note however that PPD can also begin for no obvious reason and sometimes cannot be attributed to any particular cause.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
There are many different symptoms of Postpartum Depression and they can vary drastically from person to person. Symptoms can range from mild to severe in intensity and begin anytime within the first six months of giving birth. There is a very clear distinction between the symptoms of PPD and the normal period known as the ‘baby blues’ which usually passes within two weeks. Most women feel tearful, upset and overwhelmed a few days after giving birth but PPD is a serious illness which can persist for a long time and needs proper treatment.
Treatments for Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression can be a difficult, frightening and lonely experience but with the right treatment, most women can make a full recovery. There are a number of effective treatments for PPD, and it is extremely important to seek treatment as the condition is unlikely to improve on its own and can often get worse. It can also affect your relationship with your baby and the care you are able to provide for your child. There are many different types of treatment available such as medications, therapy and self-help measures including practical support and advice. Finding the right treatments for PPD depends on the level or severity of your symptoms and the first stage is to admit you are struggling and ask for help from your doctor or health care professional.
Medications for Postpartum Depression
There are a number of medications for Postpartum Depression and your doctor can help you decide which one may be best for you. It’s important to take into account the side-effects and benefits of each medication and to be aware of which types can enter the breast milk and affect your baby. It is unlikely you will be offered medication as a single form of treatment unless you have already tried talking therapies and not found them helpful. Usually, a combination of medication, therapy and self-help is advised.
Paternal Postpartum Depression
Postpartum Depression is an illness usually associated with women, but it may come as a surprise to learn that it can also affect men. Studies have shown that one in ten new fathers will experience some of the symptoms of Paternal PPD within three to six months of their baby being born, but their struggles are more likely to go unrecognised than those of their partner. As with female PPD, there is no single cause for why some men develop Paternal PPD and not others, although there are groups of men who have been shown to be more likely to suffer from it.
Postpartum Depression Statistics
Postpartum Depression Statistics show the disorder is extremely common. In the US alone, the Centers for Disease Control reports that between 11-20% of new mothers will suffer from the condition. This equates to approximately 600,000 women per year. This figure fails to take into consideration those who do not seek treatment due to various reasons. Adjusting for this lost data and for the inclusion of miscarriages and stillbirths, the number of women suffering from PPD in the United States may be as high as 900,000 each year.
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