Postpartum Depression - A Serious Health Problem?

It is very common for a woman to become stressed and experience mood swings after giving birth to a baby and this is because pregnancy and afterbirth comes with a lot of responsibilities. But some women experience this mood disorder in a serious manner, and that condition is considered to be postpartum depression. 

We all must have heard of the term “depression” and how it can affect the health of a person. Postpartum is a time period in the life of a woman after giving birth to a child. It is a serious mental illness which is strongly associated with the brain and significantly affects the behavior and physical health of a woman. 

In medical terms, postpartum depression is defined as an episode of non-psychotic depression with onset within one year of childbirth. 

The occurrence of postpartum depression differs for everyone, means some women start feeling depressed a few days after giving birth to a baby, whereas, some women may not feel depressed until weeks or months later. It is a serious mood disorder which is not only associated with extreme sadness but is also associated with symptoms like:

  • Change in sleeping habits 
  • Feeling of hopelessness 
  • Change in appetite 
  • Lack of interest in doing things 
  • Cry for no apparent reason 
  • Problems with concentration

What are the effects of postpartum depression? 

Although it is a woman or a mother who suffer from postpartum depression, she is not the only person who experience its effects. Almost every person who is closely connected to her is also affected, along with the baby. The health of a mother is highly associated with the health of a child, as it is a mother who play key roles to ensure the health or a child. Apart from that, the symptoms of this mood disorder can have a significant impact on the personal relationships as well. Many times, women with this disorder experience serious situations and problems. 

  • Many times women experience sudden panic attacks which is characterized by the sudden and repeated attacks of fear. It becomes a serious problem as the intense fear in the mind prevents a woman to perform the normal daily activities. It can cause symptoms like palpitations, shortness of breath, and numbness. 
  • Many times, a woman goes through some trauma during delivery or postpartum which can lead to the occurrence of postpartum post traumatic stress disorder. It is characterized by increased stress which is accompanied by symptoms like nightmares, sleeping disorders, and increased problems with concentration. 

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Are Postpartum depression and baby blues same? 

Many times it is believed that baby blues is another term for postpartum depression. But there is a difference between the two. Baby blues is characterized by mood swings and other symptoms that appears within a few days after giving birth and generally go away in three to five days. On the other hand, postpartum depression is a serious problem that can occur anytime up to a year after birth. Usually, it begins within the month of giving birth. 

Basically, there are three types of postpartum affective illnesses, baby blues and postpartum depression are two of them. The third form of postpartum affective illness is psychosis. 

What are the causes of Postpartum depression? 

Hormonal changes during and after pregnancy is the primary cause of postpartum illnesses in a woman. The fluctuations in sex hormones are the common cause of the occurrence of depression in women after childbirth. During pregnancy the levels of estrogen and progesterone in a woman are at the highest peak and within 24 hours after giving birth to a child, the levels of these hormones drop significantly. 

Generally, estrogen and progesterone are considered to be the hormones that are responsible for sexual development of a woman and menstrual cycle. But many researchers have shown that estrogen also play key roles in the central nervous system. The levels of estrogen has an impact on almost all the parts of the brain (such as the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and cerebellum) where mood, motor skills, and cognitive functions are controlled. 

Low levels of progesterone also contribute to the occurrence of depressive state. The primary hormone that regulates mood is serotonin which is released in the brain. Decrease in the levels of serotonin significantly affect the mood of a person. Progesterone affects the levels of serotonin and has an impact on the mood of a person. 

Apart from sex hormones, childbirth is also associated with decrease in the levels of thyroid hormones. It has been observed in many studies that reduction of thyroid hormones is directly linked to a decrease in serotonin levels and there is no doubt that serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is highly associated with depression. Lack of thyroid hormones is not only associated with depression but also with many other health problems. Primarily there are two thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine which are important for many important functions in the body.   

Some of the ways to improve the symptoms of postpartum depression 

  • Take a good night's sleep - Sleep disorders are the commonly occurring symptoms in a woman having postpartum depression. Both too much sleep and very less sleep is unhealthy. Taking peaceful sleep is important. 
  • Spend some time with your friends and family - Spending some alone time with your partner and some time with your friends can help in a significant way as this will improve the mood of a woman. 
  • Share your feelings - This is another important step that needs to be taken in order to improve the symptoms of depression. Sharing feelings with the partner will allow you to feel stress free. At least a bit. 

Tags: Postpartum depression symptoms, Postpartum anxiety, Postpartum depression treatment, Postpartum depression causes, Postpartum pregnancy