Emotional changes following the birth of a baby affect almost half of all new mothers. Baby blues are most common three to 10 days following delivery (but can occur anytime in the first year) and usually last anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks. In some women, the depression is more pronounced, and, in rare cases, there is extreme depression.
Frequent Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms vary in intensity, but can include:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or gloom.
- Appetite and weight loss (sometimes a weight gain).
- Sleep disturbances or frightening dreams.
- Loss of energy; fatigue.
- Irritability, anxiety.
- Frequent headaches and other physical discomfort.
Pregnancy and birth are accompanied by sudden hormonal changes that affect emotions. Additionally, the 24-hour responsibility for a newborn infant represents a major psychological and lifestyle adjustment for most mothers, even if it is not the first child.
These physical and emotional stresses are usually accompanied by inadequate rest until the baby's routine stabilizes.
Risk increases with:
- Stress and lack of sleep.
- Poor nutrition.
- Postpartum blues following a previous pregnancy.
- Lack of support from one's partner, family or friends.
- Pre-existing mental health problems.
This depression is usually very short-lived. With support from friends and family, mild postpartum depression disappears quickly.
- Lack of bonding between mother and infant.
- If depression becomes more severe, a mother may not be able to care for herself and the baby.
- Serious depression that may be accompanied by aggressive feelings toward the baby, a loss of pride in appearance and home, loss of appetite or compulsive eating, withdrawal from others or suicidal tendencies.
Treatment/Post Procedure Care
Medication, counseling and support from others usually cure even severe depression in three to six months.
- Diagnosis is usually based on a history of the symptoms. There are no specific diagnostic tests.
- Don't feel guilty if you have mixed feelings about motherhood. Adjustment and bonding take time.
- Schedule frequent outings, such as walks and short visits with friends or family. These help prevent feelings of isolation.
- Have your baby sleep in a separate room. You will sleep more restfully.
- Ask for daytime help from family or friends who will shop for you or care for the baby while you rest.
- If you feel depressed, share your feelings with your partner or a friend who is a good listener. Talking with other mothers can help you keep problems in perspective.
- Severe postpartum depression requires professional help.
Notify Your Healthcare Provider If
- Postpartum depression does not improve after two weeks or the symptom level increases.
- You have postpartum depression and additional life changes occur, such as divorce, career change or moving.
- You have suicidal urges or aggressive feelings towards the baby. Seek help immediately.