Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Signs of Postpartum Depression

By Brandi M. Seals

Following pregnancy many women may experience postpartum depression. The depression has made the news several times in the past couple years as women like Andrea Yats killed their children as a result of the problem. However, those are extreme cases. Postpartum depression does exist, but for many it results in minor symptoms such as not wanting to be near your child, constantly sleepiness or having trouble focusing.

I in no means mean to trivialize how any symptoms of postpartum affect women. I merely mean to say that it is something for new mothers to watch out for because it is not all about feeling the urge to kill your kids as it was previously hyped in the media. Celebrities, like Brooke Shields, have come forward to say that yes they did suffer from postpartum, but they got help and so can you. This has helped sway the overwhelmingly negative impression that the words "postpartum depression" used to inflict.

After pregnancy, hormonal changes can trigger symptoms of depression. When women are pregnant the levels of estrogen and progesterone in their bodies greatly increases. But, within the first 24 hours of childbirth these hormone levels drop down to their normal non-pregnant levels. Researchers have come to believe that this rapid change in hormone levels may lead to depression.

Besides hormone changes there are a number of other factors that may contribute to postpartum depression. They include:

Feeling tired after delivery
Not getting enough rest due to broken sleep patterns
Feeling overwhelmed at having another baby or being a new mother
Doubting your ability to be a good parent
Getting stressed due to changes in your routine
Believing that you must be a super mom can cause added stress
Feeling a loss of identity because you are not the same as before the baby-this includes both physical appearance and sense of who you are.
Losing of control over how time is spent.

Symptoms of postpartum depression include any of the following that last longer than two weeks:
Restlessness
Irritability
Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
Frequent crying
Little to no energy or motivation
Eating too little or too much
Sleeping too little or too much
Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
Feelings of worthlessness
Feeling guilty
Loss of interest in activities
Withdrawal from friends and family
Headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations or hyperventilation
Significant signs of depression may include a fear of hurting your baby or yourself and/or not having any interest in your baby.

If you experience any of the above for more than two weeks, please speak to a doctor about what you can do. If you have ever feared hurting your baby or have no interest in him or her, do not hesitate to seek medical guidance. There is nothing wrong with having depression, but it can inadvertently affect your relationship with your child if you do not seek help.

Many women may be tempted to dismiss their symptoms of depression as baby blues, but baby blues usually occurs in the days just after childbirth and go away within a few days to a week. New mothers with baby blues may have sudden mood swings, crying spells, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, and feel irritable, restless, anxious, sad and lonely. Symptoms of baby blues are not severe and treatment is not needed.

To relieve baby blues try to get as much help as you can from your husband, family and friends. You might also like to join a support group for new moms. You won't feel so isolated once you talk to others in the same situation. And take a tip from mom's who know best, always catch up on your sleep when the baby is napping. You never know when you will get another crack at it.

In contrast, postpartum depression can happen anytime within the first year of your child's life. The main difference between postpartum depression and baby blues is that postpartum depression often affects how a woman is able to function and her well being for longer periods of time. The use of medicine, counseling or joining a support group all may go a long way to helping relieve postpartum depression.

Some women hide their symptoms because they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty that they are not as happy as they are supposed to be. They worry that they will be viewed as unfit parents. Don't be. Talk to your doctor. He or she can help you learn more about treatment options and decide which approach is best for you and your baby.

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