Postpartum Depression: A Mood Disorder

by Claire Behrens

After those long nine months full of dreams and plans for the future, most new mothers think the hardest part is over: a healthy, full-term pregnancy and delivery. Now they can enjoy this beautiful baby in their arms. But for some, the joy of this new arrival might come with something unexpected: postpartum depression (PPD).

Independent from mom’s family situation, hormones play a huge role in a woman’s readjustment to this new phase of her life. Sometimes this readjustment goes smoothly, with some bumps along the way (the baby blues), while other times women can develop postpartum depression.

The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue that many women experience after having a baby. Babies require a lot of care, so it’s normal for mothers to be worried about or tired from providing that care. Baby blues, which affects up to 80% of mothers, includes feelings that are somewhat mild, last a week or two, and go away on their own. I remember when I had my first child, and a week after her birth, I started crying just because I did not feel her warmth of her body and her moves inside of me. My baby was just sleeping in her crib in front of me, yet I could not stop my urge to cry. Did it make sense? No. Nothing needs to make sense after the miracle of pregnancy and delivery. There is a big difference between baby blues and postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that should be treated by a mental health professional.

Postpartum depression does not have a single cause, but likely results from a combination of physical and emotional factors. Postpartum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do.

After childbirth, the levels of hormones in a woman’s body drop quickly. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation contributes to the exacerbation of symptoms of postpartum depression, as well as other stressors.

Symptoms of PPD are:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
  • Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
  • Worrying
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
  • Insomnia
  • Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
  • Inability to concentrate, remember details, and make decisions
  • Experiencing anger or rage
  • Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable: such as previous hobbies, friendships.
  • Suffering from physical aches and pains
  • Changes in appetite
  • Isolating yourself
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the baby
  • Persistently doubting the ability to care for her baby
  • Suicidal ideation

If you think most of the symptoms above apply to you, or you know someone to whom they apply, seek advice from a mental health professional. Without treatment PPD can have negative effects in the baby’s psychosocial development, as well as the mother’s overall health.

You cannot just “get over it” such as you cannot “get over” diabetes. Depression is a condition that needs treatment. Advocate for its awareness and treatment!

 

 

Über Mom Claire is an English, German and Spanish speaking psychologist in Munich. She supports children with learning disabilities, individualised education plans and school transitions. She has over five years experience in psychology. She brings in multicultural practical experience gained during her years working in the Middle East, the USA, South America and Germany.

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