What is Postpartum Depression (PPD)?
Postpartum depression (PPD) also called Post Natal Depression (PND) is when a woman experiences depression between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby. PPD affects up to one in seven women (almost 16 per cent) giving birth in Australia. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between clinical depression and the normal stress and exhaustion of new parenthood, but if your depressed mood is so strong you are unable to do your daily tasks then you could have PPD symptoms. According to the American Psychiatric Association, PPD can begin in the weeks after pregnancy or even before. (About half of women with PPD have symptoms during pregnancy.) The severity of depression after childbirth varies from mild to severe. There is a big difference between baby blues and PPD. Up to 80 per cent of women experience the baby blues in the early days after the birth due to changes in hormone levels. Baby blues include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, crying and last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born. PPD lasts longer and is more intense.
What are the PPD Symptoms?
To be diagnosed with PPD you must meet the criteria for the following (with an onset in pregnancy or within 4 weeks of delivery).
- Five or more out of following (including at least one of depressed mood and loss of interest or pleasure) in the same 2-week period. Each of these symptoms represents a change from previous functioning, and needs to be present nearly every day:
- Depressed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure, most of the day;
- Change in weight or appetite.
- Sleep disturbance
- Psychomotor retardation or agitation (observed);
- Loss of energy or fatigue;
- Worthlessness or guilt;
- Difficulties with decision making
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
How common is it?
More than 1 in 7 new mums experience PPD. For half of women diagnosed with PPD, this is their first episode of depression. About half of women who are later diagnosed with PPD may have begun experiencing symptoms during pregnancy–so it’s important to monitor you mental health pre, during and post pregnancy.
Why does it occur?
It is difficult to definitively pinpoint the cause of PPD, however, there are many factors that may contribute to the development of PPD. It has been suggested that the biological changes that occur during pregnancy may contribute to the development of PPD. It has been suggested that it is imbalances in levels of oxytocin and serotonin that contribute to the development of PPD. It has further been suggested that PPD may develop because of mistakenly misinterpreting, what research suggests are quite normal thoughts for a new parent, as something that is significant and threatening which may then be compounded by the added sense of responsibility a new parent feels to their child. Also thinking that you must be the “best mother” and hold yourself to unrealistic expectations. Overall the current thinking depression is a combination of genetics and environment.
What about the Dad’s?
Most people are surprised to know that around 1 in 20 men experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy (antenatal) and up to 1 in 10 new dads struggle with depression following the birth of their baby (PPD). Life changes in many ways after having a child and sometimes it can be hard to adjust to these changes, particularly when sleep deprived. like any adjustment It is important for a new or expecting dad to seek support and treatment for how he is feeling as early as possible to help get better as soon as possible
When to see a doctor
If you’re feeling depressed after your baby’s birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But if you experience any symptoms of postpartum baby blues or postpartum depression, call your doctor and schedule an appointment. If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately. Please refer to the emergency contact page.
What treatments are available?
Most people with anxiety or depression benefit from one or a combination of the following lifestyle changes and social support, psychological or ‘talking’ therapies and medical treatments. The treatment of PPD is like the treatment of other forms of depression. A specific facet of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) called Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) has been found to be highly effective in the treatment of PPD. Another facet of CBT called Cognitive Restructuring has also been found to be highly effective in treating PPD and involves challenging the validity of the unrealistic disturbing thoughts. Mindfulness-based CBT has also been found to be effective in the treatment of PPD and involves the acceptance of unwanted thoughts in a non-judgemental manner to increase the mood difficulties.