You just had a baby. You feel so excited, and scared, but this lingering feeling of hopelessness and sadness creeps up. You can’t feel happy or joyful. You may be one of the many women who have Postpartum Depression, #PPD, and you are not alone.
COVID-19 and Postpartum Depression
Starting in 2020, moms faced further isolation due to Covid-19 restrictions both at the hospital and at home. Many hospitals last spring were not allowing any one with patients in the hospital, which forced moms to labor and deliver without the support of family or friends. The current trend allows for one person to be there, but the dream of having many support people around moms has been taken away.
Further isolation after delivery has increased depression and anxiety as families have been cautioned about gathering during the past year. Where as moms would have significant support after delivery in the past, now many are at home with a new baby without the support a mother of a new-born needs. All of these factors make Postpartum depression even more of an issue than in the past.
Incidences of Postpartum Depression in the United States
In the United States alone:
Approximately 70% to 80% of women will experience, at a minimum, the ‘baby blues’ #babyblues. Many of these women will experience the more severe condition of postpartum depression or a related condition.
One recent study found that 1 in 7 women may experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. With approximately 4 million live births occurring each year in the United States, this equates to almost 600,000 postpartum depression diagnoses.
It is important to understand that these numbers only account for live births. Many women who miscarry or have stillbirths experience postpartum depression symptoms as well.
When including women who have miscarried or have had a stillbirth, around 900,000 women suffer from postpartum depression annually in the US.
Postpartum Depression Is a World Wide Problem
Postpartum depression is a global issue as well.
Postpartum depression affects tens if not hundreds of millions annually if all countries are accounted for.
One study found that postpartum depression rates in Asian countries could be at 65% or more among new mothers.
Sadly, it is believed that postpartum depression is much more common than these statistics reveal. Some medical experts believe that the rate of postpartum depression could be at least twice as much than what is actually reported and diagnosed. If symptoms go unreported and untreated, they cannot be accounted for in global health statistics.
Another important fact to consider about postpartum depression is that it can affect people from all races, ethnicity, cultures and educational or economic backgrounds.
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
So what is the difference between Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression? Typically, the baby blues last only a few weeks following the birth. During those weeks, a mother can experience mood swings, anxiety, and sadness. The mother may have issues with appetite and trouble sleeping.
The symptom many mothers find most distressing is that the baby blues can create the feeling of a disconnect between the mother and child. Many people interpret this as a sign that they’re going to be a bad parent or that they won’t love their child, but neither of these is true. The feeling of disconnect is just a symptom of an often-fleeting condition.
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression can occur anytime up to one year after birth. While there are a wide range of symptoms, some of the more common are:
Continuous feelings of sadness and uncontrollable crying
Severe sleep problems – inability to sleep or sleeping too much
Changes in appetite – eating too little or too much
Excessive irritability, anger, worry, or agitation
Extreme lack of energy and motivation
Inability to get pleasure from previously enjoyed activities
Lack of interest in the baby, friends, and family
Extreme feelings of guilt, worthlessness, despair, or hopelessness
Inability to concentrate or make decisions
Treating Postpartum Depression
Are treatments available for postpartum depression?
The good news is that postpartum depression is readily treated with counseling and antidepressant medication. Early detection and treatment are crucial for full recovery. The following treatments, usually combined, can offer the most help for mothers struggling with postpartum depression:
Psychotherapy Treatment – Psychotherapy is another word for talk therapy or counseling. Women meet with a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional and talk about their fears and problems. Psychologists teach patients how to develop skills to manage feelings and cope with problems.
Psychologists spend an average of seven years in doctoral education, training, and research before receiving a doctoral degree (either Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in psychology. In addition, they spend one pre-doctoral and one post-doctoral year in a clinical internship in a hospital or organized healthcare setting and a year of postdoctoral experience before being licensed to provide services to the public.
Psychologists practicing in your geographic area can be easily located 24/7 through the Web site https://www.findapsychologist.org/ . They will put you in touch with a credentialed psychologist who can help you move toward recovery.
Since psychotherapy is a process that occurs between a psychologist and you, it is essential that you feel comfortable with that person in order to develop an open and trusting relationship, which is needed to facilitate growth and progress. Be sure to discuss fees, insurance, and emergency care.
It is important to remember that mental health is an important investment in yourself, your baby’s, and your family’s future. When you have located a supportive and knowledgeable mental health professional, you have taken an important step in the journey back to finding yourself and enjoying your life again.
Medication Treatment – There are a range of antidepressant medications that are prescribed to treat varying degrees of postpartum depression. Coordination of care between your psychologist and the prescribing medical doctor can be most helpful to your recovery. You will need to talk to your physician to determine a safe medication if you are a nursing mother.
Education and Support Groups – Support groups provide guidance, compassion, and assistance for women suffering from postpartum depression. They offer an opportunity for women to understand their depression and benefit from the experiences of other women and helps them to realize that they are not unique.