Understanding Postpartum Depression

Understanding Postpartum Depression

by

Ashleigh Gabriel, LCSW

 

Postpartum Depression (PPD) has become almost a buzz phrase in the motherhood community lately, but with good reason. We are experiencing an increase in societal awareness of mental health issues and understanding their affects on people with PPD being one of them. With so much talk about PPD, I felt it would be good to provide an overview of the disorder to help clients understand it better and have a better idea if it might be something they are dealing with. 

The first thing people wonder is, what does PPD look like? The truth is, you can’t tell by looking at someone if they have PPD or not. A woman does not necessarily have to be a crying, depressed mess to be experiencing PPD. There are a lot of expectations on new mothers to be happy all the time, that being a mom should come naturally, bonding with baby should be easy, and a “good” mom doesn’t leave her baby in the care of others. These expectations are toxic and often leave new moms wondering, “what is wrong with me” if they do not meet them all.

 

PPD also does not discriminate when if comes to who might be at risk. Women of all races and ethnicities can experience PPD and 10-25% of all women will experience PPD. The factors that may increase the likelihood of PPD occurring can include being a mom with very young children or living in poverty (up to 48% of PPD cases are women living in poverty). In Oklahoma, nearly 15% of new mothers report PPD symptoms. Data also shows that women under 20 are twice as likely to report symptoms than women 30 or older. 

When trying to determine if you might be experiencing PPD, it’s important to differentiate between typical “Baby Blues” and the more serious Postpartum Depression.

“Baby Blues” Symptoms: 

  • Experienced by 50-80% of all new moms within the first 10 days after childbirth.
  • Symptoms usually show up quickly, within the first few days, and with support will level out but can last up to 2 weeks. 
  • Symptoms can include: moodiness, sadness, difficulty sleeping, and irritability.

 

Postpartum/Perinatal Depression (PPD) Symptoms:

  • Increased crying and tearfulness
  • Loss of interest in pleasures in life
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Change of appetite or unexplained weight loss/gain
  • Less energy and motivation to do things
  • Feeling worthless, hopeless, over guilty
  • Feeling restless, irritable or anxious
  • Feeling like life isn’t worth living
  • Having thoughts about hurting oneself
  • Worry about hurting baby or someone else hurting bab

If any of these occur lasting for a full 2 weeks or more you may be experiencing PPD.

Sometimes women want to know exactly what causes PPD, and although there is not a clear, black and white answer, there are some known causes which can include any of the following: hormone changes, biological factors, genetics, and social, economic and physical environment in which a woman lives (including trauma and stress). 

The most important thing to know, you are not alone. About 1 million women experience perinatal mood disorders or anxiety every year. PPD is the most common complication of pregnancy and can occur after or even during pregnancy and can affect anyone. 

Addressing PPD is important because at the end of the day, mothers are not the only one impacted; when mom isn’t well the whole family suffers. A mother’s emotional state during and after pregnancy has an immediate and direct impact on her relationship with her baby. The mother-child relationship also directly impacts the child’s quality of life, potentially on a long-term basis.

 

I know PPD can sound scary and feel even worse if you are actively experiencing it, but the good news is it’s treatable! So what can you do about it? Here are some ways to treat PPD:

  • Medication
  • Therapy
  • Peer Support
  • Family involvement in care
  • Support groups
  • Self-care activities

Other things to keep in mind…


If you or someone you know might be suffering from PPD, please reach out for help! We have therapists who can help but there are also local resources and online resources out there for you. Here are some good resources to check out:

Resources:

 


 

 

Ashleigh Gabriel, LCSW

 

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