postpartum depression

Understanding Postpartum Depression

Two forms of postpartum depression (PPD) occur in women who have just given birth: early onset and late onset. Early onset, commonly referred to as “baby blues,” occurs in about 80% of women after they deliver, and it will dissipate naturally over the course of the few weeks following delivery. Late onset is the form most women think of when they hear the phrase “postpartum depression” – it’s usually recognized several weeks after delivery, and varies in form depending on each woman’s unique situation. 

Medical professionals are still debating the exact cause of PPD, but there seem to be common contributing factors. Many doctors believe changes in estrogen and progesterone, the female reproductive hormones, during pregnancy are responsible for the illness. During pregnancy, these hormones increase their production by ten times. After giving birth, the hormones abruptly return to normal levels, leaving the woman feeling unusually emotional. Other potential causes of PPD could be normal issues related to having a baby – increased stress, paired with sleep deprivation and exhaustion could trigger the illness.  

Signs and symptoms of PPD include:

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Heightened emotions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive crying
  • Feelings of hopelessness 

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms after giving birth, it could be late onset PPD. The symptoms of PPD can be frightening and debilitating. Women with PPD have trouble going about their normal daily routines, and in serious cases, may have thoughts about harming themselves or the baby. If this is the case in your life, contact a professional to help you cope with feelings of depression and anxiety. Don’t be afraid of suffering repercussions for getting help, like having your child taken away – almost all women who seek professional help for PPD overcome their feelings and return to stable relationships with their child. 

If you’re experiencing hallucinations or delusions about yourself or your baby, go to the emergency room or contact your health care provider. This could mean you have moved into the most severe form of PPD, called postpartum psychosis. Although rare, postpartum psychosis has been known to occur and needs medical attention right away. 

Take care of you first. If you think you’re suffering from PPD, seek professional help to get yourself back to health. Remember, what’s best for you is also best for your baby. 

For more information about PPD, contact Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville at (615) 329-6745.