You’ve just welcomed your new bundle of joy into the world. It should be a blissful time, right? Unfortunately, not every pregnancy and post-birthing experience is a positive one. The subsequent weeks and months may be filled with sadness, anxiety, and even depression.
According to Jeana Boyd, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Pullman Family Medicine and Pullman Regional Hospital, postpartum depression is gauged in comparison to wellness.
“The World Health Organization provides us a definition of maternal mental health as wellbeing in which a mother realizes her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to contribute to her community,” she states. So, if an individual is not thriving in one of those areas, there may be an issue.
Are Only Women at Risk for Postpartum Depression?
The term postpartum depression is often used in reference to women, but current research is showing that men can also experience postpartum depression. In 50 percent of the cases where women experience postpartum depression, their male partners will also experience symptoms of depression.
“Parenting is really a partnership, when that's available. And when one person in the partnership is experiencing struggles, it can impact the other partner as well,” adds Boyd.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?
Typical warning signs of postpartum depression mimic common symptoms of clinical depression:
- Feeling sad and overwhelmed
- Losing interest in previously joyful activities
However, there is a parental component to postpartum depression. Worries and stress revolve around how "good" of a parent you are; if you're bonding with your baby. There is also a great deal of hypervigilance around keeping the baby safe.
“Sometimes, there are impulsive thoughts or rumination about bad things happening, and that can be really distressing to a new parent. For men, their experience may be a little different, but they also report feeling burned out and really tired, having sleep difficulties. Men also tend to experience irritability and anger at a bit higher rate than women,” explains Boyd.
It’s also important to note that postpartum depression can actually occur during the pregnancy, as well as if a woman experienced a miscarriage.
How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?
Each case of postpartum depression is unique in its onset and how long it persists. The earlier women receive treatment, the sooner symptoms will subside.
“Early intervention is going to shorten the intensity of what you feel and how long you feel it. There's not really a cut and dry of ‘postpartum lasts this long.’ It's more about when the diagnosis is given and what happens thereafter,” notes Boyd.
What Are the Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression?
There are a number of risk factors that can contribute to postpartum depression. A past history of mental health concerns, your family dynamic (both past and current), financial concerns, an unsupportive or abusive spouse, and living with social determinants of health (e.g. access to healthcare, a stable food supply, a safe mode of transportation) all represent reasons why parents develop postpartum depression. A genetic component may also come into play.
When Should You Reach Out for Help when Struggling with Postpartum Depression?
Keeping the definition of maternal wellness in mind, it’s time to reach out for help as soon as you start to recognize postpartum symptoms. It may actually be someone in your familial or social network who notices something is going on.
“Especially in the early phases of having an infant, when you are just really tired and trying to figure out how to parent this new human being and what they need, you can start to lose touch with yourself. Somebody else in your support network may say, ‘I think you should talk to your doctor.’”
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- Post-Partum Pelvic Health
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