Women

Postpartum Distress Syndrome : Different Degrees of Depression, Causes of Postpartum Distress Syndrome

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1. Different Degrees of Depression

There are different degrees of depression. The mildest form is baby blues. Up to 80% of all women have “baby blues.” They usually appear between 2 days and 2 weeks after the baby is born. They are temporary and usually leave as quickly as they come. This situation lasts only a couple of weeks, and symptoms do not worsen.

A more serious version of postpartum distress is called postpartum depression (PPD). It affects about 10% of all new mothers. The difference between baby blues and postpartum depression lies in the frequency, intensity and duration of the symptoms.

PPD can occur from 2 weeks to 1 year after the birth. A mother may have feelings of anger, confusion, panic and hopelessness. She may experience changes in her eating and sleeping patterns. She may fear she will hurt her baby or feel as if she is going crazy. Anxiety is one of the major symptoms of PPD.

The most serious form of postpartum distress is postpartum psychosis (PPP). The woman may have hallucinations, think about suicide or try to harm the baby. Many women who develop postpartum psychosis also exhibit signs of bipolar mood disorder, which is unrelated to childbirth. Discuss this situation with your physician if you are concerned.

After you give birth, if you believe you are suffering from some form of postpartum distress syndrome, contact your healthcare provider. Every postpartum reaction, whether mild or severe, is usually temporary and treatable.

It’s normal to feel extremely tired, especially after the hard work of labor and delivery and adjusting to the demands of being a new mom. However, if after 2 weeks of motherhood you’re just as exhausted as you were shortly after you delivered, you may be at risk of developing postpartum depression.

2. Causes of Postpartum Distress Syndrome

Researchers aren’t sure what causes postpartum distress; not all women experience it. A woman’s individual sensitivity to hormonal changes may be part of the cause; the drop in estrogen and progesterone after delivery may contribute to postpartum distress syndrome.

A new mother must make many adjustments, and many demands are placed on her. Either or both of these situations may cause distress. If you had a Cesarean delivery, you may also be at greater risk for postpartum depression.

Other possible factors include a family history of depression, lack of familial support after the birth, isolation and chronic fatigue. You may also be at higher risk of suffering from PPDS if:

• your mother or sister suffered from the problem—it seems to run in families

• you suffered from PPDS with a previous pregnancy—chances are you’ll have the problem again

• you had fertility treatments to achieve this pregnancy—hormone fluctuations may be more severe, which may cause PPDS

• you suffered extreme PMS before the pregnancy—hormonal imbalances may be greater after the birth

• you have a personal history of depression, or you suffered from untreated depression before pregnancy

• a hormonal drop as a result

• you are anxious or have low self-esteem

• you have a struggling relationship with baby’s father

• your access to finances and health care are limited

• you experience little social support

• you had more than one baby or you have a colicky or high-maintenance baby

• you experienced a lack of sleep during pregnancy, you sleep less than 6 hours in a 24-hour period or you wake 3 or more times a night

In addition, if you answer “most of the time” or “some of the time” to any of the following questions, you may be at increased risk.

• I blame myself when things go wrong (even if you have nothing to do with them).

• I often feel scared or panicked without good reason.

• I am anxious or worried without good reason.

3. Handling the Baby Blues

One of the most important ways you can help yourself handle baby blues is to have a good support system near at hand. Ask family members and friends to help. Ask your mother or mother-in-law to stay for a while. Ask your husband to take some work leave, or hire someone to come in and help each day.

Rest when your baby sleeps. Find other mothers who are in the same situation; it helps to share your feelings and experiences. Don’t try to be perfect. Pamper yourself.

Do some form of moderate exercise every day, even if it’s just going for a walk. Eat nutritiously, and drink plenty of fluids. Get out of the house every day. Eating more complex carbohydrates may help raise your mood. And giving baby a massage may help you because it helps you connect with your baby.

Talk to your healthcare provider about temporarily using antidepressants if the above steps don’t work for you. About 85% of all women who suffer from postpartum depression require medication for up to 1 year.

4. Dealing with More Serious Forms of PPDS

Beyond the relatively minor symptoms of baby blues, postpartum distress syndrome can appear in two ways. Some women experience acute depression that can last for weeks or months; they cannot sleep or eat, they feel worthless and isolated, they are sad and they cry a great deal. For other women, they are extremely anxious, restless and agitated. Their heart rate increases. Some unfortunate women experience both sets of symptoms at the same time.

If you experience any symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately. He or she will probably see you in the office, then prescribe a course of treatment. Do it for yourself and your family.

5. Your Distress Can Affect Your Partner

If you experience baby blues or PPD, it can also affect your partner. Prepare him for this situation before baby is born. Explain to him that if it happens to you, it’s only temporary.

There are some things you might suggest to your partner that he can do for himself, if you get blue or depressed. Tell him not to take the situation personally. Suggest he talk to friends, family members, other fathers or a professional. He should eat well, get enough rest and exercise. Ask him to be patient with you, and ask him to provide his love and support to you during this difficult time.

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