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Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Postpartum depression: symptoms, causes & treatment

In this article you will learn the following

Postpartum Depression – When everything turns black despite the happiness of the baby.

It is said to affect about every tenth mother: postpartum depression. It is a mental illness that can occur in women after childbirth. The medical term for this is postpartum or postnatal depression.

What exactly is postpartum depression? How is it different from simple tiredness, exhaustion, or the so-called „baby blues“? Does it only occur in new mothers or can fathers also suffer from it?

Postpartum depression is a postnatal disorder, a phenomenon that occurs after childbirth. It can appear in the first few days after the baby is born or many months later.

The symptoms resemble a „normal“ Depression, a state of mind that can affect people of all walks of life even without a recent delivery. In this context, postpartum depression is distinguished from other phenomena that can also occur shortly after and during the birth of one's own child.

However, as is so often the case with mental illnesses, the distinction is difficult and the boundaries are fluid. For example, there is the „Baby Blues“ or the „Heulttage“. But you can already tell from the terms that they sound more harmless than the medically indicated diagnosis of postpartum depression. And in that sense, they are too.

Postpartum depression: From baby blues days to depressive weeks

The so-called „Heultage“ plague the affected mothers immediately after childbirth or only after a few days. The baby is healthy. You should be happy, but you are not. You're at your wit's end. Overwhelmed. At the end. Everything is just too much. Those affected get into a kind of melancholic mood, cry frequently and often for no recognizable or identifiable reason. They feel exhausted and overwhelmed, sometimes they are desperate. But after a few days this is also known as „Baby blues“ designated episode is often over.

The baby blues are generally quite common, much more common than true postpartum depression. Therefore, it is one of the almost expected, frequent phenomena in the course of the birth of a child. After all, about four out of five mothers notice severe mood swings after childbirth.

They are exhausted, are extremely worried about the newborn, realize that suddenly everything is different, are logically not really prepared for it and feel overwhelmed and subject to extreme mood swings.

Some of them cry a lot, some less. This is understandable given the stresses of pregnancy, hormonal changes and the birth itself.

In contrast to postpartum depression, the baby blues is not a diagnosable illness and lasts only a few days, in some cases only a few hours.

This „slight&#8220 ; Depression comes on quite suddenly, and like the baby blues, they often go away on their own over the next few days.

Postpartum depression is different. She is – if you will – a persistent, heavier and more ingrained manifestation of the baby blues. Some parenting sources make little distinction as to whether it is a „long blues“ or an already mild postpartum depression. Most of the time, however, experts also speak of the baby blues as a mild form of postpartum depression.

In any case, it can be stated: If the basic mood remains depressed for more than just a few hours or days, with fears and worries, it is often a question of postnatal depression (= postpartum depression). It lasts for several weeks and can even become chronic in severe cases.

When the mother rejects her child

The phenomenon is a special case the rejection of the child by the mother. The mother simply does not love her child and then usually has no anticipation or „positive“ Develops arousal but has no relation to the new life in her body.

Doubts about whether you will be a good mother, whether you can cope with it all and whether you can do it all belong to the usual phases of self-doubt and can be found in almost all mothers-to-be.

Once the child is born and is not loved unconditionally but downright rejected, one speaks of a postnatal psychosis, i.e. a mental illness, and not of a „classic&#8220 ; Postpartum depression.

Because while the baby blues and postpartum depression are in most cases characterized by worries about the child and the basic feeling of being overwhelmed, it can happen that the mother does not want to accept her child at all because she does not seem to be able to love it.

This can also happen with the first, second or third child. With children you want as well as with „accidents“, with mothers in permanent relationships as well as with single mothers.

Affected mothers report that they cannot pet their little ones, sometimes even touch them. The child is a stranger to her. Thoughts of infanticide also arise.

This phenomenon has little in common with postpartum depression, which usually subsides after a few days or weeks. The lack of love towards the child begins during pregnancy and does not go away in a matter of weeks or days. Rather, it can last throughout childhood and adolescence. With serious negative consequences for the child's development.

Now, love cannot be prescribed. A lack of love cannot be brought about by talk, support or medication. Therapy can help against depression or psychosis. This is also strongly recommended if the phenomenon manifests itself.

Similar symptoms, different duration and severity

The baby blues peak around three to five days after delivery and subside around day ten.

In contrast, severe postnatal depression or postpartum depression occurs within the first few weeks after birth. In rare cases, postpartum depression can last up to 24 months after the baby is born.

The symptoms do not appear as suddenly as in the mild variant, but appear more gradually. So if major depressive symptoms continue to appear about two to three weeks after birth, everything points to postnatal depression. About one in ten mothers are affected (medical professionals say 10 to 15, sometimes as high as 20 percent) and develop postnatal depression during this early period after giving birth.

The symptoms of baby blues, crying days, and postnatal depression are similar. They usually include increased sensitivity and irritability, general tiredness, mood swings, depressed mood, diffuse feelings of guilt, fear of failure, feelings of being overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and loss of appetite – classic symptoms of other forms of depression, regardless of birth and parenthood.

The condition and health of the newborn can also play a role. For many new parents it is a great emotional burden and psychological stress when the child has to stay in the infirmary for the time being due to complications, has a disability or – in the worst case – even a miscarriage.

In these cases, worry and sadness understandably weigh on the mood and need to be processed. If the birth is complicated and traumatic for the mother, the rather rare post-traumatic stress disorder can also occur.

On the other hand, baby blues and postpartum depression also occur in rather uncomplicated pregnancies, extremely smooth births and in mothers with completely healthy babies.

The whole range from being overwhelmed and worrying to rejecting the baby can occur here. What throws the new parents – Yes, fathers can also be affected, see below for more information – so much off track that despite the happiness of the baby everything turns black?

Postpartum depression: causes

The exact causes for the occurrence of postnatal depression or postpartum depression have not yet been fully clarified. However, the main focus is on the strong and rapid hormonal changes during childbirth.

However, as with all mental illnesses, there are a number of risk factors, such as: B. Pre-existing mental illnesses in the mother herself or in close relatives. There may be a trauma, a generally stressful life situation or life crises. Social isolation, poverty, or a generally low quality of life are other unfavorable factors that can trigger and promote postpartum depression.

Baby blues and the mild form of postpartum depression are often due to the generally changed life situation. Also the sensory overload caused by the new family member, the consequences of lack of sleep and the general lack of rest. In addition, a lack of social support, problems in the partnership or one's own excessive expectations of one's future parental role that cannot be fulfilled have an unfavorable effect.

Pre-existing physical stress, deficits or illnesses can also promote postpartum depression. These include iron deficiency, malnutrition, thyroid or metabolic disorders, birth complications or medication (e.g. beta blockers).

And yes, postpartum depression can affect men too. Fathers are also affected, at around four to five percent. Although they are not literally in „posterpartum“ and have not experienced pregnancy and childbirth first hand, men also experience hormonal changes.

The close emotional bond with their partner and child does the rest: They live and suffer together, master the common tasks and problems or are afraid of failing. So it seems only logical that postpartum depression can also affect men.

Postpartum depression: treat or wait?

As already mentioned, crying days and baby blues are far more common than postpartum depression. Therefore, new parents should not immediately despair and suspect postpartum depression if the first few days after the birth are characterized by a sad, anxious or depressive mood.

Mothers (and possibly fathers) who are actually suffering from postpartum depression can be helped. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, talking to friends and relatives can also help; the support of the midwife and of course the life partner provide support and stability. Relief, help in the household, relaxation phases and beautiful experiences sometimes work small miracles. Especially if it's just mild postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression has a good overall prognosis. Like the light, mild form (baby blues), the „adult“ postnatal depression will go away on its own. Even if left untreated, symptoms resolve on their own in most patients within a few weeks. However, if the depressive phase lasts longer than two or three weeks, postpartum depression should be treated. Professional therapy is required.

Postpartum depression, which is particularly severe, requires urgent treatment because of the increased risk of suicide and the (sometimes present, but very rare!) risk of infanticide. In some cases, inpatient treatment may even be necessary.

Most parents who suffer from postpartum depression can be helped with psychological counseling, talk therapy and concrete everyday coping skills. Since anxiety and sleep disorders are the main concerns for many of those affected, an anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing antidepressant is prescribed.

The same applies to mothers who cannot love or accept their children . They need to realize that it is a mental illness that can be treated therapeutically. The aim is then to build a lasting bond with the offspring, to reduce existing feelings of guilt and to achieve a normal mother-child bond.

Regardless of the form and extent of postnatal stress, depression or psychosis, a stable, supportive social environment is half the battle.