For many women, the joy of welcoming a new baby into the world is enough to overlook all of the sacrifices and physical changes they must make and go through while pregnant. While that joy is unrivaled, women dealing with postpartum depression may find their initial weeks or months of motherhood are not how they imagined they would be prior to giving birth. Women suffering from postpartum depression, a mood disorder that affects women after childbirth, often deal with extreme feelings of sadness that interfere with their ability to care for themselves, their families and their new babies.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there is no single cause of postpartum depression, which is likely the result of a combination of factors, some of which are physical and others that are emotional. The NIMH points out that postpartum depression does not result from something a mother does or does not do, but may be traced to hormonal changes in a woman's body that occur after giving birth. After childbirth, a woman's estrogen and progesterone levels quickly drop, potentially triggering mood swings. When coupled with the inability to get adequate rest that many women experience after childbirth, these hormonal changes can contribute to symptoms of postpartum depression.
Recognizing postpartum depression is not always so simple. For example, many women experience feelings of exhaustion after giving birth, but that does not mean they are suffering from postpartum depression. The following are some of the more common symptoms of postpartum depression, courtesy of the NIMH:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed.
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason.
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious.
- Feeling moody, irritable or restless.
- Oversleeping or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep.
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions.
- Experiencing anger or rage.
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable.
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems and muscle pain.
- Eating too little or too much.
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family.
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby.
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby.
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
While those are common symptoms of postpartum depression, women and their families should recognize that not all womens' experiences with postpartum depression will be similar. Only healthcare providers can diagnose postpartum depression, and women or their loved ones who suspect the disorder might be affecting them or their loved one should consult a physician right away. More information is available at www.nimh.gov.