This article is provided by our partners at Flo Health. Flo is a women’s health app, that supports women at each stage of their reproductive cycle. It tracks menstruation, cycle prediction, preparation for conception, pregnancy, early motherhood and menopause.
Giving birth to a new human being may feel exciting. However, to some people, it may also bring long-lasting depressed mood, fatigue, or anxiety.
Sudden mood swings and tearfulness are symptoms that occur in up to 85 percent of mothers in the first few days after childbirth and are commonly known as the baby blues. In general, these symptoms are nothing to worry about.
After delivery, the levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone drop abruptly. These hormonal changes may affect the mother’s mood, causing the baby blues. In most cases, the symptoms vanish within 1–2 weeks, after hormonal levels have stabilized.
Postpartum depression is different from baby blues — it’s more severe and long-lasting. Around 15 percent of new mothers experience it.
Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression may occur at any time during the first year, most often in the first 4 months after the baby was born. A woman with postpartum depression needs professional help.
Postpartum depression may be triggered by one or more of the following:
- Hormonal changes: people with postpartum depression may respond more sensitively to hormonal changes in the postpartum period and while breastfeeding.
- Poor social supprt: Caring for a newborn and breastfeeding is a 24/7 job and is often accompanied by sleep deprivation. Mothers need support from their partner, friends, relatives, or other associates. Single mothers and women with financial or housing problems are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
- Stressful life events: Partnership conflicts, domestic violence, and the loss of a close family member are a risk factor for depression in general. They may lead to postpartum depression as well.
Studies show that some demographics of mothers are more prone. Postpartum depression is most prevalent in teenage mothers and mothers ages 19–24. Other elements that increase a mother’s risk of developing PD include smoking postpartum, giving birth to low-birthweight infants, unmarried status, and having infants that require neonatal intensive care at birth.
How to prevent depression
Prevention starts before the baby is born, as depression may develop not only after, but also during pregnancy.
Being well-prepared for motherhood can be helpful to prevent postpartum depression. In antenatal classes, women have the opportunity to discuss their future motherhood, share their concerns, and support each other.
A new mother should have enough time to rest and should take care to have regular healthy meals.
When you’re raising a child, it’s nice to have family or friends supporting you. They can help you with the baby and with household tasks. They can also act as confidants. Sharing your feelings and frustrations is important for your mental health.
When to call a doctor
In general, you should call a doctor if sadness, irritability, or anxiety lasts for more than two weeks and interferes with your ability to care for yourself and your child.
You may also need a doctor’s help if any of the following signs are present:
- Not being able to sleep or being tired and exhausted all the time
- Poor appetite
- Feeling even small tasks are hard to complete
- Feeling highly critical of yourself or others
- Worrying about the baby all the time
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or the baby
In most cases, a slight decline in mood after childbirth is normal and goes away within 2 weeks. If it doesn’t and symptoms of depression persist, psychological therapy and medications prescribed by a doctor are, in general, effective treatment options.
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