Understanding Postpartum Depression (Ppd) And What to Do About It

The joys of pregnancy and childbirth are immense and pure. Nothing can quite replicate the love and happiness of holding your child in your arms. So much pride and pleasure come from becoming a parent. Unfortunately, parenthood isn’t always all smiles and laughter. Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common and serious form of depression that comes on after giving birth. Over 17% of women are affected by PPD globally. 

After delivery, many women experience what is referred to as “baby blues”. This is a short period in which the new mom undergoes mood instability (mood swings), periodic crying, anxiety, and interrupted sleep patterns. The baby blues generally last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, as many as one in seven women develop PPD, which is a much longer-lasting and more severe form of baby blues. 

A Thorough Analysis of PDD

PPD has been known to begin during the pregnancy stage and last through childbirth and beyond. In these cases, it is referred to as “peripartum depression.” Sometimes, in rare cases, a severe mood disorder named postpartum psychosis may develop. PPD can happen to any prospective mother and is not the product of weaknesses or flaws in character. It is merely a complication of pregnancy and childbirth. 

PPD can be defined as “moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth.” The condition may develop following childbirth or up to a year after delivery. In most cases, PPD typically onsets within the first three months following delivery. The DSM-5 does not have a specific category for PPD and instead classifies the disorder as major depressive disorder (MDD) with postpartum onset. 

Signs and Symptoms

As with any form of depression, PPD is marked by persistent sadness (depressive symptoms). Several effects of PPD distinguish it from some other forms of depression. Below are just some of the many symptoms associated with PPD:

  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Excessive stress or worry
  • Deep sorrow
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Crying often
  • Thoughts of harming the newborn 
  • Thoughts of harming oneself
  • Feeling disconnected from the baby
  • Low energy
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Oversleeping or undersleeping
  • Headaches or stomach aches
  • Unexplained pains

Risk Factors

The precise origins of PPD have yet to be determined. However, several factors can contribute to the risk of whether a mother will develop this condition. The primary factor involved in cases of PPD is drastic hormone level alterations during and after pregnancy. These changes are exceedingly hard on the body and can result in various mental and physical health conditions, including PPD. Aside from hormonal changes, the following factors may be involved:

  • Chronic stress
  • Little to no support system
  • Having depression previously
  • Depression in the family
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Preterm delivery
  • Low fertility
  • Pregnancy complications or trouble during childbirth 

In addition to the above risk factors, the following factors put mothers at an increased risk of developing PDD:

  • Being under the age of 25
  • Substance use (alcohol, tobacco, drugs)
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Marital or relationship trouble
  • Financial or housing instability

Treating PPD

Before treatment can take place, mothers need a proper diagnosis. After PPD has been established as the cause of various symptoms, the process of determining the best treatment path can begin. A mixture of therapy and medication is often used for cases of PPD. There is a long list of prescription pills available for PPD, most often in the form of antidepressants. The use of medication may or may not be right for everyone. Its administration will depend on each person and their individual needs. 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common treatment option for PPD. CBT focuses on negative thought patterns and works to form more positive and productive thinking. During this therapy method, new mothers learn how to train their brains to adopt new perspectives and problem-solving thought patterns.

In addition to CBT, interpersonal therapy is also beneficial for treating PPD. Where CBT is all about thoughts and behaviors, interpersonal therapy concentrates on relationships in one’s life. It is not generally considered a long-term solution on its own. However, it has shown to be a significantly helpful addition to treatment. Studies have suggested that interpersonal therapy can help women in a variety of stages, from delivery through breastfeeding. For an all-encompassing plan, a combination of CBT and interpersonal therapy can greatly improve PPD. 

Happy Mom, Happy Home

With proactive steps for the betterment of their mental health, mothers can step into the beautiful gift of motherhood with confidence and improved wellness. All it takes is proper guidance and care to overcome the challenges of PPD and thrive as a parent and caregiver. We know moms deserve the best, but it is important for them to remember that they do as well.

The dark depths of PPD are treacherous waters that can be exceedingly difficult to navigate. Don’t let the tides take you farther out. Let us calm the waves and guide you to shore. Here at Alter Behavioral Health, we understand just how hard it is to live with depression. You deserve to experience all the joys that motherhood has to offer beyond the challenges of PPD. You don’t have to fight these storms alone. We can help you overcome PPD so that you can be the joyous mother you are meant to be. With our variety of treatment options and mental health experts, we are uniquely equipped to help. Call (866) 691-4386 for information and to get started with treatment.