Postpartum Depression and Mental Health
WHAT IS IT?
For many men and women, having a baby is a tiring and anxious event, but it is one that gives a large amount of joy. Many have something called baby blues, where mood swings occur very often as women cope with a new and difficult task of caring for their baby. However, for some parents, childbirth can cause a condition called postpartum depression (PPD), a condition that results in extreme sadness, anxiety, indifference, and major changes in sleep, energy, and appetite. Postpartum depression can be harmful to the physical body, but it can also affect the mental health of the mother, and potentially the child as well.
HOW DOES IT AFFECT PEOPLE?
Postpartum depression affects both genders; however women are more vulnerable to this condition, with one in seven women in the world being diagnosed with PPD, as opposed to 4% of males. Past histories of depression also contribute to the development of this condition, as do environmental issues, such as social and financial issues that have affected the family. The onset of symptoms generally begin within 4 weeks of childbirth, as both male and females may encounter symptoms such as a state of depression, loss of interest, anxiety, feeling worthless and guilty, thoughts of death/suicide, and/or fear of being a bad mother, along with a slew of physical changes. Mothers and fathers generally have a couple of there symptoms together, and this forces them to become guilty and withdrawn. Additionally, around ⅔ women were diagnosed with anxiety disorders along with their PPD.
PPD in mothers and fathers can also affect their newborn children. Studies have shown that premature babies can be adversely affected by parents with PPD, and bonding issues between parent and child can develop. Additionally, PPD can contribute to feeding and sleeping problems for the baby, and can bring them a decrease in verbal, cognitive, emotional, and developmental deficits.
MORE ABOUT PPD
Although PPD is a dangerous condition, many parents disregard the onset of symptoms as “baby blues,” a natural occurring onset of mood swings especially seen in mothers. However, after two weeks, continuation of symptoms generally indicates that something is wrong. Even still, parents (especially mothers) fight through PPD because they believe that it is a regular development of pregnancy. Early detection of PPD can provide immense relief to the patient and is essential for the continued positive development of the child and the parent, and greater awareness can lead to more people being screened and treated for PPD. In fact, the US Prevention Services Task Force updated its depression screening guidelines to include postpartum and pregnant women.
Once detected through a myriad of tests, PPD can be treated through psychotherapy (talk therapy), meditation, certain drugs like antidepressants, and a formation of a better environment. For low level depression, psychotherapy without drug prescription is recommended by the American Psychology Association, but moderate to severe depression and anxiety should be treated through antidepressants like Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI), Bupropion, or Tricyclic antidepressants. Another antidepressant includes Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), but some SSRIs have been associated with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the lungs in a baby, a rare but serious condition. Joining support groups or having close relationships that facilitate open discussion about feelings can also help the patient.
PPD is a serious condition that can not only affect the patient but also the child. However, if screened and detected early, doctors are able to treat this condition quickly and with minimal damage to the parent’s or the child’s health. Therefore, it is important for both parents to screen themselves for PPD as childbirth is approaching, as that simple test can save the family’s well being.