Giving birth to your little one will bring a rush of emotions. While you might expect to feel happiness and excitement, or even fear and anxiety, you might be surprised if you start to experience feelings of sadness and depression.
Some new mums will experience a severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Here’s what you need to know about the condition.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is the type of depression that some mothers may get after they give birth. It can start any time during a baby’s first year, but it is most common for mothers to begin to feel its effects during the first three weeks after birth. It is not uncommon for many mothers to experience sadness and mood swings in just the first few weeks after birth. This is known as postpartum ‘baby blues’ and should not be confused with postpartum depression which is far more severe and long-lasting. It is important to remember that postpartum depression is not a flaw or weakness, but rather a complication of giving birth.
There are many symptoms that mothers may experience if they have postpartum depression. Some symptoms include:
- Depressed mood
- Severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Finding it difficult to bond with your baby
- Feeling the need to withdraw from family and friends
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive eating
- Sleeping for long periods of time
- Reduced interest and pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
- Irritability and anger
- Fear and guilt
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Suicidal thoughts
When should you seek help?
Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between baby blues and postpartum. It can also be hard to know when its the right time to see a doctor about the way you are feeling. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression:
- Do not reside after two weeks
- Seem to be getting worse
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby or complete everyday tasks
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you have a history of depression, especially postpartum depression, it is important to tell your doctor if you are planning on becoming pregnant or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. In order to prevent or minimise the effects of postpartum depression, there are a few things you can do during and after your pregnancy.
During pregnancy: Your doctor can monitor you closely for signs and symptoms of depression. Sometimes mild symptoms of depression can be managed with support groups, counselling or other therapies. In other cases, antidepressants may be recommended.
After giving birth: It is often a good idea to receive an early postpartum checkup to screen for any signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. The earlier it is detected, the earlier treatment can begin. If you have a history of postpartum depression, your doctor may recommend antidepressant treatment or psychotherapy.
Pregnancy and birth is no small feat, and you never have to feel like you are going through it alone. If you have any questions about your pregnancy, including postpartum depression, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Dr Bevan Brown is one of the most trusted gynaecologists and obstetricians in Sydney. Personalised care and strong relationships with our patients are of utmost importance!