Postpartum Depression: How to Treat it Right

Postpartum depression is a breach of emotional balance that starts after a woman gives birth; and the main signs of which are low spirits, anxiety, and inability to accomplish daily tasks. This pathology has a negative influence on a mother as well as a child.

This emotional disorder is diagnosed in less than half cases. Many young mothers have to suffer alone and that has an unfavorable effect on the health and mental condition of a child, a woman herself, and family relations.

Prelevance of Postpartum Depression

10-15% of women suffer from postpartum depression. The occurrence of postpartum depression in general (men, as well as women, are included) – 3-10%. From this comparison alone it can be concluded that during the postpartum period the odds of the emotional disorder are high.

But this is not the whole story. 10-15% of women are those who have strongly pronounced signs of depression; almost 50% of women who have recently become mothers may develop moderately pronounced emotional deviations.

When does it Start and When Will it go?

In typical cases, postpartum depression develops during the first three months after childbirth.

The duration of this disorder depends on the individual. Under the condition of timely liquidation of the causes of postpartum depression, rendering necessary psychological and medical aid to such women, absence of genetic predisposition the disorder can be completely over after a few months (and maybe even earlier).

But if a woman has previously suffered from bipolar affective disorder, cyclothymia, or any other emotional disorder, or has a genetic predisposition, or there are other factors, contributing to overpressure on a woman’s psyche, the depression may become severe. The symptoms of postpartum depression can last for a long time (even for a few years) or become chronic (turn into dysthymia), accompanied by relapses (acute conditions) from time to time.


Postpartum Depression Risk Group

There are a number of factors, heightening the risk of developing postpartum depression. Women who have a lot of these factors need to undergo preventive measures.

Postpartum Depression: Diagnostics

  • Women who showed the symptoms of depression before or during pregnancy. If the disorder has showed earlier there is a high possibility that due to the serious hormonal changes of the post-natal period as well as the complications of looking after a newborn baby, changing the usual way of living a depression can develop.
  • A higher risk group consists of women, suffering from other mental disorders. Excessive pressure on an unstable psyche may lead to a severe depression.
  • Odds of emotional disorder are high for the women who have genetic predisposition for depression (any relatives with depressions and other mental disorders).
  • Postpartum depression often occurs if the woman has low socioeconomic status. When the baby is born there are a lot of things it needs (clothes, diapers, a cot, a baby carriage, toys), and every mother wants only the best for her child. If it’s impossible to buy even the most needed things it can negatively affect a woman’s psyche.
  • Chronic stress, lack of support of the woman’s wish to become a mother in the family and among associates can also be the cause of the signs of depression. Most often it occurs among unwed mothers who feel abandoned without a father of the child, supporting the woman during pregnancy and post-natal period. Such women have to fulfil two roles: to be a mother and a breadwinner, to take care of the material well-being of a baby. Sometimes this burden becomes too heavy.
  • Excessive emotionalism and anxiety of the father of the baby or any other family member who lives in the same home with the future mother may cause her distress and trigger development of an emotional disorder. That’s why the husband and all the other family members should try to establish normal microclimate in the family and control their emotions, because psyche of the pregnant and the young mothers is extremely perceptive to outside disturbance and it shouldn’t be tested for its strength.

An Example from Life

“One of my acquaintances was diagnosed with a severe malformation of the fetus in an early stage of pregnancy. But she refused to terminate it. After nine months of anxiety, she gave birth to a healthy baby (fortunately, the doctors’ prognosis had been a mistake). But being in a state of constant worry about her baby’s health during pregnancy, second thoughts about the choice she had made haven’t passed without leaving a trace. Almost immediately after childbirth, she faced severe postpartum depression.

The new mother even didn’t want to take the baby into her arms, she had no strength left for taking care of her baby, and she was in a state of constant apathy. Her family persuaded her to ask for medical aid. After a month the depression ceased and the mother showed a wish and energy to look after the baby.”


Main Causes of Postpartum Depression

There is no unambiguous answer to the question of why postpartum depression occurs.

The development of this mental disorder is a result of the interaction of genetic predisposition factors and immediate causes of postpartum depression. In some cases, it’s impossible to detect the cause of depression.

These are the most common reasons for the development of postpartum depression:

  • Heredity: Some women have a strain of depression in the family, they are more prone to mental disorders (in this case it’s a matter of endogenous depression)
  • Hormonal Changes: During the post-natal period the level of placental hormones decreases, the function of endocrine glands is being restored, the level of prolactin, which enables a woman to produce milk, increases. Such vital hormonal changes can affect a mother’s mental state as well
  • Childbirth is a heavy emotional burden for a woman. She has to acquire a lot of new skills; there are a lot of taboos and restrictions. It is necessary to change your daily routine. The baby becomes the center of the universe for its mother. Some women suffer from a constant lack of sleep, can’t satisfy the baby’s requirements (the baby is always crying, doesn’t eat enough, and suffers from griping pains). The mother thinks that she doesn’t take good care of her baby, doesn’t love it enough, and all that may cause mental disorders;
  • Besides, in many families having a baby provokes conflicts, disagreements between husband and wife. Women pay all their attention to their children, their lives are turning upside down, but many husbands don’t realize the degree of changes happened and want to maintain their usual schedule (have a lot of time for rest, friends, want peace and quiet at their home, don’t pay enough attention to their wives, don’t provide necessary help). So, the woman has a feeling of loneliness, discontent, and sadness; and then postpartum depression develops.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Signs of postpartum depression are in many aspects similar to the symptoms of neurotic depression. Now let’s discuss how this disorder is developing.

The most typical signs are increased anxiety and tearfulness, subdued spirits, lack of strength to look after the baby, feeling of sadness, sorrow, frequent panic attacks. Many women feel lonely, tired, and dissatisfied with themselves. They’re troubled by remorse because they believe they’re bad mothers, and can’t take care of/pay attention/love the baby enough.

In addition to it, the signs of postpartum depression can be attributed to the following ones: insomnia, the long period before falling asleep, bouts of rapid pulse and migraines, loss of weight, obsessive fear of causing harm to the child with any actions. A new mother has a morbid outlook on her future and the future of her baby.

In the case of severe postpartum depression, a woman can lose her bearings, stop recognizing her family. There may be bouts of delirium and hallucinations. Most often the delirious ideas are somehow connected with a baby, but things the woman speaks about are different from reality, and she can’t be dissuaded from them.

Preventive Measures Against Postpartum Depression

To prevent the development of postpartum depression you should visit a gynecologist on schedule during pregnancy and observe all the recommendations. It’s better to give preference to breastfeeding; it normalizes your hormonal balance. Try to sleep for a few hours during the day to make up for the lack of sleep at night.

Experts recommend new mothers follow the rules stated below to avoid postpartum depression:

  • Choose partner childbirth if possible. Presence of the husband gives the woman support during delivery, even if he is emotionally unstable. Besides, it forms the right attitude to the mother from her husband after childbirth.
  • After childbirth the husband will have to do the majority of domestic chores. If the man wants his wife and child to be healthy, he’ll definitely clean in the house and cook the meals.
  • You shouldn’t have visitors shortly after childbirth. This restriction will lower the pressure on your psyche and save the baby from unnecessary contacts.

If you feel that you can’t overcome emotional problems you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Prolonged postpartum depression is very hard to treat and it will depend on the mother herself, her husband, relatives, and the doctor’s qualifications how long the mental illness will last.

Treatment of Postpartum Depression

Treatment of postpartum depression as well as previous diagnostics of this disorder is based on an examination, revelation, and comparison of symptomatic. The blood test enables us to estimate the level of hormones – it will allow getting a complex picture of the patient’s emotional condition. The specifics of treatment are based on the depth of depression the woman is experiencing.

Out of medications antidepressants applied to treat such a kind of depression can be used – these are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (due to the use of these medications hormonal balance is maintained). Side effects of such medications are minor and there are no risks for the baby during the treatment. Other pros and cons you should discuss with your doctor.

As an additional treatment, you should consider psychotherapy. It gives you the possibility to reorganize the traditional thinking paradigm in combination with altering your present scheme of behavior and reactions to different situations. During the medical consultation, you can achieve really effective results in your treatment.

You can also enlist social support to struggle with your depression. There are public groups and social services for dealing with problems young parents usually face with. There you can share your problems with those who have also had postpartum depression, tell them your story and find a solution for a number of urgent problem issues. Anyway, it’s important not to let the situation hang out, to strive for a normal life as well as a healthy attitude toward yourself, your baby, and your family, taking certain actions to achieve this goal – only in such a way the problem of your depression can be solved.

If you recognize the symptoms, characteristics of postpartum depression, you can see a therapist or pediatrician for medical advice, or even turn directly to a psychotherapist or psychologist.


Postpartum Depression Quiz

This quiz has been worked out specifically for expectant mothers and new mothers who suspect postpartum depression. Our quiz will enable you to thoroughly estimate your emotional condition. Don’t answer the questions too quickly. Think about your condition during the previous two weeks and choose the most correct answer that is appropriate to your occasion.

  1. I still smile a lot and am able to notice how beautiful the world around me is.
  2. As always (0)
  3. Not really (1)
  4. Far less than before (2)
  5. Hardly ever (3)
  6. I’m looking forward to new events in my life.
  7. As always (0)
  8. A bit less than usual (1)
  9. Far less than before (2)
  10. The future doesn’t look too promising (3)
  11. If something doesn’t go as planned I feel guilt.
  12. Yes, very often (3)
  13. Yes, I do from time to time (2)
  14. It happens seldom (1)
  15. No, never (0)
  16. I often find myself in a state of anxiety or distress without any reason.
  17. No, I don’t (0)
  18. Seldom (1)
  19. From time to time (2)
  20. Yes, very often (3)
  21. I’m often afraid though there is no reason for panic.
  22. It happens to me very often (3)
  23. Sometimes it happens (2)
  24. No, it’s not my case (1)
  25. Absolutely not true (0)
  26. I’ve recently had a feeling that complicated circumstances gain the upper hand over me.
  27. Yes, usually I can’t manage without help (3)
  28. From time to time such things happen (2)
  29. No, I usually can manage myself (1)
  30. Of course not, I am always in control and keep myself in hand (0)
  31. I feel so miserable that I can’t sleep.
  32. Yes, I do (3)
  33. From time to time (2)
  34. Hardly ever (1)
  35. Never felt in such a way (0)
  36. Grief never leaves me.
  37. Yes, that’s true (3)
  38. From time to time (2)
  39. Such a thing happens seldom (1)
  40. That’s not true (0)
  41. I’ve been crying a lot recently.
  42. Yes, I have (3)
  43. Very often (2)
  44. Seldom (1)
  45. No, I haven’t (0)
  46. I often think about committing suicide or hurting myself.
  47. Yes, I do (3)
  48. Depends on a situation (2)
  49. Yes, but not seriously (1)
  50. No, never (0)

Test Scores

  • 0-10: Your current state of mind can’t be called “depression”. You can probably feel sad from time to time due to the hormonal changes that occurred after childbirth or during pregnancy. Wait for a little and everything will come back to normal. But if you’ll suddenly feel that the situation becomes worse, ask your husband and folks for help. In serious cases consult a therapist.
  • 11-16: If you’re in a bad mood for a short period of time (a few days), then there is no serious reason for worry. But if that’s not true consulting an expert will be the most correct decision. Maybe low spirits arise because of a physical indisposition. Try to be patient and deal with your health problems.
  • 17-30: Your emotional state at the moment requires serious treatment. To deal with this problem you should see a doctor for advice and prescription of medications to eliminate the symptoms of depression.