While it is common for new mothers to experience a litany of emotional changes and episodes of varying mood swings, a more severe and longer-lasting experience is categorized as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is different from the other more common experiences of new mothers. Rather than fading quickly, postpartum depression occurs as a deeper and persistent low emotional state. Sometimes referred to as “baby blues”, mothers who descend into a depressive state from which there is little or no relief for prolonged periods of time, can seek the assistance of a psychiatric professional to relieve the burden of depression and get on to enjoying the treasures of being a new mother.
Common symptoms of mothers experiencing postpartum depression include mood swings, anxiety, irritability, trouble focusing, crying spells, and insomnia. The common emotional fluctuations that involve periods of fatigue and a loss of appetite are made more severe in cases of actual postpartum depression. The more common feelings are present in more dramatic fashion and add a loss of interest in sex, anger, feelings of guilt or shame, and severe mood swings and loss of appetite.
Other symptoms can include having a difficult time bonding with the baby, a serious thought of harming yourself or your baby, and even withdrawal from friends and family.
When to Seek Treatment
Many new mothers expect a different range of emotions after giving birth and therefore feel that the symptoms they experience are natural and unnecessary of professional attention. The signs that professional help may be in order include symptoms that linger for more than a few weeks, symptoms that get progressively worse, and any situation where the emotions make caring for the baby more difficult or impossible.
The treatment protocol for mothers experiencing postpartum depression varies by patient. Some patients are treated based on the severity of their symptoms and the number of symptoms they exhibit. Prior medical and mental conditions are also weighed when professionals treating a mother afflicted with postpartum depression are configuring their prognosis.
Mothers facing the depths of postpartum depression are under the same pressures as others dealing with mental illness and issues. One key to delivering the type of treatment that will benefit the mother is a support system including family and friends who can mitigate the stigma that can be present. Mothers who are willing to be candid about their feelings and challenges can best take advantage of a support group of those who care about them and the baby as well as the mental health professionals who aim to provide relief.