Bigger than the Baby Blues - Signs of Postpartum Depression


The joy of bringing a child into the world, a baby to love and cherish, may be the plan but to 50-80% of new mothers suffering from a form of depression known as the Baby Blues that dream is not the reality.

While not serious, the baby blues can leave a new mother despondent, tired, and subject to emotional swings and loss of appetite. The effects of giving birth, hormone changes and the lifestyle changes of having a newborn (not sleeping, being indoors a lot, responsibilities of caring for a baby) can lead to a bout of the baby blues. Baby blues are usually short lived and go away without treatment.

What is of more concern are the less frequent cases where baby blues develop into something longer lived and more severe: postpartum depression.

While Brooke Shields (along with the help of Oprah Winfrey) has put a famous face on this dreadful disorder, thousands of women who face the pain and anxiety of postpartum depression fight a private battle of wills between their knowledge of what motherhood should be and their detached feelings, hopelessness and even suicide.

What causes postpartum (also known as postnatal) depression and what are the signs?

No precise cause has been found that causes a happy, healthy woman to loose her sense of self, desire and joy for life when she should be enjoying the experience of motherhood.

While many women suffer side effects from the temporary drain of estrogen hormones soon after birth the effect of this estrogen loss may go even further in women diagnosed with postpartum depression.

Other factors, such as financial stress, relationship and communication problems or a history of depression in the family may contribute to postpartum depression.

Identifying postpartum depression is crucial since it IS treatable. Often it will become the responsibility of the partner or other friends and family to watch new mothers for signs of depression. Postpartum depression can occur anytime after birth - even up to a year after.

The National Women's Health Information center lists these signs to watch for in mothers who may be suffering more than the baby blues:

- Feeling restless or irritable

- Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed

- Crying a lot

- Having no energy or motivation

- Eating too little or too much

- Sleeping too little or too much

- Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions

- Feeling worthless and guilty

- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities

- Withdrawal from friends and family

- Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)

After pregnancy, signs of depression may also include being afraid of hurting the baby or oneself and not having any interest in the baby.

It is very important for mothers to have a strong support system in place since the demands of caring for an infant, especially when other children are present, can lead to stress and burnout. All most mothers need is loving care and someone to talk to. For those suffering with depression, it is even more crucial.


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