Postpartum Depression Facts

November 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Depression

Do you  know the postpartum depression facts? This week I received a message from Penny who suspects her daughter has signs of postpartum depression. Penny kindly gave me permission to share her letter with you.

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Dear Dr Purves

My daughter Karla gave birth to her son six weeks ago and I’m concerned that she has signs of postpartum depression.

She’s 25 and this is her third child. The first two were girls and she was fine with both of those. She has a supportive, loving partner and whilst money is tight they’re OK. There’s no apparent reason for her to be unhappy. It was her partner who called me because he is worried about her.

Karla seems happy one minute and then she bursts in to tears over nothing. For example Paul’s parents were coming down from Scotland to meet the baby. She was wiping down the sides in the kitchen and when she’d finished she burst in to tears because she’d missed a bit.

She doesn’t seem to care about her appearance. I know it can be hard to get showered and dressed when you have a newborn but she’s not even interested in leaving her pyjamas.

I’ve noticed that she often seems really distant. If I or anyone ask her a question she sometimes seems to struggle to formulate her words.

I asked her what was going on and she said she felt completely overwhelmed and empty. She said she didn’t feel anything for the baby.

I’ve heard of the baby blues, in fact I experienced that myself, but it only last a few days and was much closer to when the baby was born. If anything Karla seems to be getting worse not better.

Penny

Postpartum depression facts: Baby Blues v Postpartum Depression

Penny recalls having Baby Blues herself but postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, is different.

Let’s start with the Baby Blues. The Baby Blues usually kicks in a few days after giving birth. You can find yourself feeling irritable or crying over nothing and this is most likely down to your hormone levels. New mothers often report having symptoms of the Baby Blues on the third and/or fifth day after giving birth. There’s a lot to deal with initially.

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You’ve been through labour, you’re most likely to be sleep deprived and you’re now a mum with a lot resting on you… and of course hormones. But Baby Blues is short lived. Symptoms can last merely hours or a few days .

If your symptoms persist or get worse as Karla’s mother reports hers are then you should see a doctor because you may have postpartum depression. Rest assured there is plenty of postpartum depression help available if your doctor does diagnose you with this condition.

Postpartum Depression Facts: About

The bare bones postpartum depression facts and symptoms are as follows:

As with general depression the signs of postpartum depression can include low mood, sadness, tiredness, finding it hard to sleep, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, lack or increase in appetite,  or considering suicide.

Postpartum Depression Facts: You’re not alone

What Penny and Karla need to know is that according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists 10 to 15% of women having babies will experience postpartum depression.

Some celebrities with postpartum depression have been especially publicised. Actress Brooke Sheilds’ battle is well documented and was particularly severe. She penned the book Down Came the Rain: A Mother’s Story of Depression and Recovery about her struggle.

Everyone’s experience of postpartum depression is different. Brooke reports hearing voices, feeling rage and self-hatred. Very severe postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis which may include delusions, rapid mood swings and hallucinations affects 1 in 1000 women.

Brooke says, “It has nothing to do with your love for [your children]. … It is something that is in your body, the loss of estrogen, the amount of hormones. … Pay attention to the feelings that you’re feeling and talk about it and ask your doctor. … Find out what medicine’s available. You don’t have to be miserable.”

Postpartum Depression Facts: Cause

Why is this happening to me? It’s common for women to wonder why they are experiencing postpartum depression.

So, what are the causes of postpartum depression? The cause is likely coming from a combination of things. Don’t underestimate the stress of being responsible for a newborn or the hormonal changes which will be going on in your body. If you add to these circumstances relationship issues or losing your job, for example, it’s a lot to deal with.

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Karla would have been more at risk of developing postpartum depression if any of the following apply to her. And if I had the opportunity to meet with Karla I would ask her the following:

  • Have you previously suffered from depression or had any other mental health issues?
  • Did you feel depressed or anxious at any point when you were pregnant?
  • Have you experienced any additional stressful events?

Postpartum Depression Facts: Treatment

If you suspect that you have postpartum depression then your first port of call should be your GP. I would advise Penny to speak to her daughter and encourage her to have a chat with her health visitor or doctor who will come up with a treatment plan. As with general depression you can recover from postpartum depression and the same options apply.

Exercise is a natural mood booster and something you can do for yourself. Put your baby in the pram and get walking. It doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise to make a difference. Just do something.

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Your doctor may prescribe you an antidepressant and suggest a course of cognitive-behavioural therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT therapy) is a talking therapy which is used widely in the treatment of depression and anxiety. It will help you challenge and change your thoughts. You can either undertake a course of therapy face to face with a therapist or use a computerised CBT course which you can access through your computer such as Mood Control or Blues Begone which has been used by the NHS.

And that brings us to the end of postpartum depression facts which I hope you’ve found useful.

Wishing you a good journey.

Dr Purves

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