Postpartum depression is a combination of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that occur after giving birth. These changes are attributed to the chemical, social, and psychological changes associated with having a baby.
There are very few studies that can determine the link between the rapid drop in hormones after delivery and depression. It is known that the levels of estrogen and progesterone—the female reproductive hormones—increase tenfold during pregnancy, but drop sharply after delivery. Approximately three days after giving birth, levels of these hormones drop back to pre-pregnant levels. In addition to chemical changes, the social and psychological changes associated with having a baby create an increased risk of postpartum depression.
There are three distinct types of post partum depression. The levels of treatment vary with the severity of the illness:
Postpartum blues are oftentimes referred to as the “baby blues.” This is the most common condition for women after birth.
The most common symptoms include:
• frequent, prolonged bouts of crying for no apparent reason
The condition usually begins in the first week after delivery and generally subsides within two weeks without treatment.
Postpartum depression is a far more serious condition than postpartum blues. An individual is more likely to experience this ailment if they’ve already had it.
These symptoms include:
• alternating “highs” and “lows”
• frequent crying
• irritability and fatigue
• feelings of guilt and anxiety
• inability to care for the baby or themselves
Symptoms range from mild to severe and may appear immediately or even up to a year later. Typically this illness is treated with psychotherapy or antidepressants.
Postpartum psychosis is an extremely severe form of postpartum depression and requires emergency medical attention. This condition is relatively rare, but the symptoms generally occur quickly after delivery and are severe.
• severe agitation
• feelings of hopelessness and shame
• delusions or hallucinations
• rapid speech
Postpartum psychosis requires immediate medical attention since there is an increased risk of suicide and risk of harm to the baby. Treatment will usually include admission to hospital for the mother and medicine.
With professional help, virtually all women who experience postpartum depression are able to overcome their symptoms.