Postnatal depression often referred to as postpartum depression (PPD), is a mental health disorder that affects mothers primarily after childbirth. Postpartum depression is triggered by the various emotions and hormones released during and after birth.
While it is normal to feel the ‘baby blues’ or general mood swings, it should not take over a person’s life. When the feelings are intense and everlasting, this can cause serious complications and devastating symptoms.
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Causes of Postnatal Depression
The main causes of postnatal depression are both physical and emotional changes. When a woman gives birth to a new baby, a rush of hormones floods her system. This causes physical changes and emotional responses. One hormone that has been found in women with postnatal depression is cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for stress and too much of it can easily cause anxiety.
A mother’s thyroid gland may also be affected. If this is the case, there is a lack of hormones and metabolizing. If food cannot convert to energy, mothers feel exhausted, depressed, and purposeless.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression
The symptoms are harsh. Both mothers and fathers can develop postnatal depression. However, mothers that give birth to their children are more severely affected. The symptoms vary between gender.
Symptoms in Women:
- Anxiety attacks
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain or loss
- Fear that you are not enough
Symptoms in Men:
- Feeling of being overwhelmed
- Shame or guilt
- Loss of appetite
Diagnosis of Postnatal Depression
Mothers and fathers that develop any of the symptoms above should go to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. If PPD is not treated or found in time, it can worsen to the point where a person is dealing with suicidal thoughts.
When first going to a doctor, parents should discuss their emotions and symptoms openly and honestly. The doctor will take notes and refer the new parents to a psychiatrist for specialized treatment. Sometimes, doctors can also do blood tests to look at hormone levels, as it could simply be a biological response to birth. This is important because the blood test can rule out any other health conditions. One of the main conditions resulting in weight gain and a lack of energy is an underactive thyroid.
After new parents have a proper diagnosis, they can receive the treatment plan they need.
Treatment for Postnatal Depression
There are two specific types of treatment available for men and women with PPD. These types include medication and psychotherapy.
For adults suffering from postnatal depression, medication may be needed. The medication depends on the person’s medical history and current medications. Antidepressants are the most common medication supplied to mothers with the condition. They work by increasing dopamine levels and decreasing the symptoms associated with depression.
Although it is concerning, medications can be taken even if breastfeeding. Certain brands of antidepressants (with low dosages) do not seep into breast milk. However, new mothers should talk to their doctors about the risks.
For women and men that cannot take medication, psychotherapy is another treatment to manage the symptoms and cure parents. Sometimes, the best thing a person can do is talk to another person. Here, a trained psychiatrist can help new parents understand and break down their feelings.
Psychotherapy is not just talking, though. Psychiatrists and their patients work towards a common goal by following a plan they put together. Typically, postnatal depression subsides in a few weeks with consistent treatment.
- Can men and fathers feel postnatal depression? Although men are at a lower risk for this condition, they can still develop postnatal depression. Having a child can be a wonderful thing, full of many overwhelming feelings. Men and fathers feel these strong emotions like mothers.
- How long does postnatal depression last? The answer depends on the treatment. Most of the time, with effective treatment, postnatal depression does not last longer than a few weeks. However, it can worsen and lengthen if it is not treated.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!