While the exact cause of postpartum depression remains unknown, it’s likely that a number of factors, including the changing of roles (as a spouse and parent), hormonal changes, stress, a personal or family history of depression or other mental illness (especially postpartum depression) and marital strife are involved. Depression can occur during pregnancy or within a year after delivery. The exact number of women with depression during this time is unknown, but research suggests such depression is one of the most common complications during and after pregnancy.
Often, this depression isn’t recognized or treated because certain normal pregnancy changes cause similar symptoms and are happening at the same time. Lethargy, difficulty sleeping, stronger emotional reactions and changes in body weight may occur during and after pregnancy. But these symptoms may also be signs of depression. One difference between “baby blues” and postpartum depression/psychosis is that the “baby blues” can happen in the days right after childbirth and normally go away within a few days to a week. A new mother can have sudden mood swings, sadness, crying spells, loss of appetite, sleeping problems, and feel irritable, restless, anxious and lonely.
Symptoms are not severe and treatment is not needed. But there are things you can do to feel better. Nap when the baby does; ask for help from your spouse, family members, and friends; join a support group for new moms or talk with other moms.
Postpartum depression can happen anytime within the first year after childbirth. A woman may have a number of symptoms, such as sadness, lack of energy, trouble concentrating, anxiety and feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Another difference between postpartum depression and the “baby blues” is that postpartum depression often affects a woman’s well-being and keeps her from functioning for a longer period of time. Postpartum depression needs to be treated. Counseling, support groups and medication are available.
Postpartum psychosis is rare. It occurs in 1-2 of every 1,000 births and usually begins in the first six weeks after delivery. Women who have bipolar disorder or a psychiatric problem called schizoaffective disorder have a higher risk for developing postpartum psychosis. Symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, sleep disturbances and obsessive thoughts about the baby. A woman may have rapid mood swings, from depression to irritability to euphoria.