What is Postpartum Depression? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 11, 2014

What is Postpartum Depression?

You can look to the Crozer-Keystone Psychiatry Services for support with postpartum depression.

You can look to the Crozer-Keystone's
Psychiatry Services
for support with
postpartum depression.

The birth of a new baby is an emotional experience. You feel excitement, joy, fear and even some anxiety. But, as a new mother, you could also feel another emotion: Depression.

Many new moms go through something often referred to as the “baby blues,” which usually includes mood swings and crying spells. Nearly 80 percent of new moms experience this emotional reaction a few days to a week after delivery. However, mothers often feel better after getting some rest and help with their new baby.

Some moms experience a more severe and longer last form of depression known as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first, but the signs and symptoms become more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks.

Postpartum depression symptoms typically include a loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, severe mood swings, lack of joy, feelings of shame, guilt of inadequacy, difficulty bonding with your new baby, withdrawal from your friends and family, and even thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

If postpartum depression is left untreated, it can last for many months or longer.

Postpartum depression isn’t a character flaw or something to feel ashamed about – for some it’s simply a complication of giving birth. Physical, emotional and lifestyle factors all play a role in the onset of this type of depression.

After giving birth, you experience a dramatic drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid may also drop sharply, leaving you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed. You may also experience changes in your blood volume, blood pressure, immune system and metabolism, which can contribute to your exhaustion and mood swings.

Bringing home a new baby can leave you sleep deprived and feeling overwhelmed – this can cause you to have trouble handling problems. You may also feel anxious about your ability to take care of a newborn, especially if this is your first child. All of these struggles can contribute to postpartum depression.

Some lifestyle factors can also influence postpartum depression, including a demanding newborn or older siblings, having difficulty breastfeeding, issues with finances, and a lack of support from a partner, friends and family.

Other factors that play a role in the onset of postpartum depression include a prior history of depression, family history of depression, stressful life events and more.

If you’re feeling depressed after giving birth, you may feel embarrassed to admit it. But it’s important to understand that you’re not alone. Speak to your doctor about your feelings and symptoms, especially if they’re not going away or are getting worse to the point where they make it difficult to care for your baby and complete everyday tasks.

Your doctor will be able to work with you to create the best treatment plan for you, which can lead your depression to go away within a few months. Treatment for postpartum depression typically includes counseling and medication. Medications, which may include antidepressants, will help to balance your moods. And counseling will give you the opportunity to talk through your feelings and even learn some coping mechanisms.

Follow us on Twitter@CKHS4Women. With a focus on women’s health, we provide tools to help you achieve wellness of the mind, body and soul.

For more information about mental health services offered by Crozer-Keystone Health System, or for a physician referral, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH or visit http://www.crozerkeystone.org/services/psychiatry/. 

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