A woman’s life changes drastically once she gives birth to a child. The newly added responsibility of bringing up a baby along with the painful post-pregnancy phase may be overwhelming for her. At one moment she may be in a good mood, and at the very next second she may feel extremely sad. These mood swings, often known as baby blues, are very common during the first few days or weeks after childbirth. For some women, the severity of symptoms may be more than usual and may last for a few weeks or months after delivery. This stage is termed as postpartum depression. Very rarely, a woman may develop alarming symptoms known as postpartum psychosis, which requires immediate hospitalisation.
After delivering a child, there is a sudden dip in the hormone levels, particularly the sex hormones, which are believed to be responsible for baby blues. The factors responsible for depression after childbirth may include:
- Not being able to handle the responsibilities of a newborn.
- Lack of sleep, exhaustion, painful wounds, such as scars from a caesarean section or tears in the vagina.
- Stressful personal life or problems with partner.
The exact cause of postpartum psychosis is unclear. However, researchers and doctors believe that a history of bouts of depression and/or close relatives with a medical history of depression, greatly increase the risk postpartum psychosis.
The symptoms of depression may start to come to the fore three to ten days after delivery, and they often include:
- Extreme mood swings
- Irritability and tiredness
- Lack of concentration
These symptoms are generally mild, however, the condition may get worse any time during the first six months. The higher degree of these symptoms indicates postpartum depression. There may also be symptoms like:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Constantly feeling exhausted
- Having little interest or showing no interest in the newborn
- Feeling depressed about the new responsibilities
The symptoms of postpartum psychosis mainly include:
- Insomnia and over-activity
- Extreme mood swings from mania to depression
Baby blues fade away with time, emotional support of loved ones, and post-pregnancy measures. But if the mother continues to feel down and it starts affecting her routine life, it’s time to seek medical advice. She may be given antidepressants and counselling so that she can deal with her depression. In case of severe postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, the mother may be admitted to the hospital. Here, she may be given a higher dose of antidepressants or a different type of antidepressant. Psychotherapy is also used to treat postpartum depression in which the mother is encouraged to talk her heart out. While the mother is going through the treatment, she may not be able to breast-feed her baby. This is because some elements of the drugs may pass into the breast milk and cause damage to the baby.