Pregnancy and Post-Partum Depression
Baby Blues Are Common
It is not uncommon for a new mother to feel overwhelmed with the sudden responsibility of a tiny life to care for. The effects of lack of sleep and loss of energy can be more than she thinks she can bear. For the most part, these feelings are normal in women who have just had a baby. However, when these feeling carry on - either before the baby is born or after - then it is important to get medical care. They may be signs of depression.
What Is Depressioin?
We're familiar with post-partum depression and baby blues, but depression can occur during pregnancy as well as after the birth of the baby. Depression is actually more than feeling blue or down in the dumps for a few days. The negative feelings of sadness, anxiety and emptiness are constant and can be mild or quite severe. It is an illness that involves the brain and it requires medical care. Statistics show that about 13% of pregnant women and new mothers have depression. Depression can be treated, which is always good news.
How Do I Know I'm Depressed?
Many times women have no idea they are depressed. They do recognize they aren't feeling quite right, but they often chalk the symptoms up to just being tired, being pregnant, or believing it will pass. Some of the symptoms are subtle and some are quite overt. Regardless, if they last for longer than a couple of weeks it is important to talk to the doctor about them. Symptoms such as:
· Moodiness or restlessness
· Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or feeling overwhelmed
· Crying a lot
· Lack of energy or motivation
· Stuffing or starving when it comes to food
· Sleeping too much or not at all
· Focus and decision making problems
· Memory problems
· Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
· Loss of interest in activities that used to be fun
· Withdrawing from friends and family
· Headaches, stomach problems and aches and pains that don't go away
The doctor has tests that help to determine if depression is the cause of the symptoms and can learn from the tests whether the issue is depression or something else.
What Are The Causes of Depression?
There is no specific cause for depression. However, several factors do contribute to it.
· Depression tends to run in families. It is a mental illness and if it is present in family members, then a woman has a propensity to it.
· It is believed that chemical changes in the brain contribute to depression.
· Life stresses can cause depression. Death, divorce, stress of caring for sick family or aging parents, abuse and poverty can all trigger depression.
· Hormonal factors that are peculiar to women can fuel depression for some women. Hormones definitely affect the brain chemistry that rules emotions and during times in life when hormones are in flux (puberty, during and after pregnancy, perimenopause) the risk for depression increases.
All of these factors can mark a woman for higher risk of depression. If a woman is depressed before giving birth, the risk of serious depression after the birth of the baby is greater.
Baby blues happen to many women after they've had a baby. Feelings of moodiness, anxiety or sadness, a few crying spells and not sleeping well all accompany baby blues. However, these symptoms are not severe and are usually gone in a few days.
When Should I Seek Help?
Post-partum depression lasts longer and the symptoms are more severe. Although most women think it occurs immediately following birth, the reality is that it can appear any time within the first year after the baby is born. All of the symptoms of baby blues are there along with others that are more serious, such as thoughts of causing harm to the baby or to herself and losing interesting in the baby. Post-partum depression requires medical care. Call the doctor,
· If symptoms of depression don't go away after a couple of weeks or if they become more intense, the doctor should be called.
· Whenever the symptoms appear - they can begin any time during pregnancy or after delivery.
· If taking care of the baby or taking care of self becomes difficult.
· If doing normal tasks becomes too hard.
· If there are any thoughts of causing harm to the baby or self.
Untreated Depression Hurts the Baby
Depression is treatable. If it is left untreated during pregnancy the baby suffers from low birth weight, the birth can be premature and delivery can be problematic. When depression is left untreated after the baby is born, research shows that the baby may have developmental delays in speaking, problems bonding with his mother, behavior problems and increased crying.
There is no shame in seeking help - it is a shame to forgo what is needed to heal and be healthy