What is Postpartum Depression?
Peer Clinical Review Conducted by: Brandy Chalmers, M.A., LPC, NCC
“Congratulations! What an exciting time this must be for you!” Words that every new parent will more than likely hear often. Being a new parent can be fun, challenging, and depressing… all at the same time. Day-to-day, the world of caring for a new baby is packed full of feeding schedules, diaper changes, bottle washing, consoling, learning new things, and burping. It’s easy to forget about your needs, both physically and mentally.
It is normal to feel overwhelmed, tired, and anxious about the responsibilities of motherhood. There is no “right or wrong” way to be a mother, though society often makes new moms feel the pressure to be perfect.
A staggering statistic from a new study published in March 2022 found that since the COVID-19 pandemic, 1 in 3 postpartum patients screened positive for depression. You may find your experience as a new Mom being coupled with postpartum depression (PPD) as well. Let’s take a deeper look into what PPD is, its causes, risk factors, and what to do if you think you or a loved one may have PPD.
What Causes Postpartum Depression?
You might be wondering what postpartum depression is, and what causes it. Unlike a cold or virus, the exact cause is a bit more complex and is not always cut and dry. Your body goes through several changes during each stage of pregnancy and thereafter. No two women will have the same pregnancy experience although there will be similarities.
Most women experience slight mood changes, also known as the “Baby Blues”, shortly after having a baby. Postpartum depression is a severe case of depression that often makes it hard for you to take care of everyday tasks, including taking care of your new baby.
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
While any new mother can develop depression, some women may have past experiences that put them at a heightened risk of developing postpartum depression. Risk factors may include but are not limited to the following:
- Feelings of depression before or during pregnancy
- Feelings of anxiety before or during pregnancy
- Loss of a partner before, during, or soon after pregnancy
- Traumatic or complicated birth process
- Difficult baby temperament (colic, fussiness, restlessness)
- Low self-esteem
- Challenges with feeding your baby
- Financial stressors
- Access to childcare
- Work-life balance
- Hormonal changes or thyroid issues
- Relationship issues (domestic violence, divorce)
Symptoms that can be Related to Postpartum Depression
Being able to understand your mind and body is important to postpartum healing. It is normal to not be happy about having a new baby. When you are sleep-deprived, hungry, and in need of a shower it can complicate things and this is entirely normal.
While transitioning to motherhood, pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you. You may be experiencing postpartum depression if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Crying more often or longer than usual
- Worrying about hurting yourself or your baby
- Thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
- Lack of interest in bonding with your baby
- Self-isolation or avoidance of friends and family
- Feelings of anger that last longer or are more intense than usual
Postpartum Depression versus the Baby Blues
About 80% of women, experience Baby Blues. Postpartum depression is often thought to be similar to the “Baby Blues”. Though the two have similarities, there are distinct differences between postpartum depression and “Baby Blues”.
Most women experience “Baby Blues” within the first few days after birth. This is a brief time when your mind, body, and prepartum lifestyle are adjusting to motherhood. “Baby Blues” usually resolves itself around two weeks after the adjustment period and is managed with coping and support of loved ones.
Symptoms of the “Baby Blues” are:
- Change in appetite
How common is Postpartum Depression?
COVID 19 has impacted every one of us in one way or another. Women may feel as if their relationships with partners, friends and family members shift after having a baby. During the pandemic, expectant mothers and new mothers experienced longer waits to access health care, sheltered in place and declined social invitations.
Moms who reported feeling worried about contracting COVID-19 had a 71% increased likelihood of screening positive for postpartum depression. 1 out 3 Moms who had babies during the beginning of the pandemic experienced postpartum depression.
Do you think you have Postpartum Depression?
If you believe that you may be suffering from postpartum depression, it is important that you speak with a medical provider or therapist as soon as possible. It’s best to inform your provider when you first experience symptoms. It is recommended that you talk to your doctor or therapist before your baby is born if you feel that you are at risk.
Seven Starling offers online mental healthcare designed just for new mothers and caregivers. With a combination of specialized individual and group therapy, Seven Starling effectively treats common perinatal mood disorders like Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. Click here to learn more.
Baby Blues after pregnancy. Home. (2021, May). Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/baby-blues-after-pregnancy.aspx
Postpartum depression rates have tripled for new moms. U.S.News.com. (2022, March 14).
Center for Disease Control. (2020, May 14). Depression Among Women | Depression | Reproductive Health | CDC. Cdc.Gov. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/depression/index.htm#post
Mayo Clinic. (2018, September 1). Postpartum depression - Symptoms and causes. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-2037661&
MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health. (2015, July 22). Postpartum Depression: Who is at Risk? Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/postpartum-depression-who-is-at-risk/
Mostafavi, B., & Bailey, L. (2022, March 23). A third of new moms had postpartum depression during early COVID. University of Michigan. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/rounds/a-third-of-new-moms-had-postpartum-depression-during-early-covid