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Postpartum Depression

Symptoms and treatment of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is very common amongst new mothers. It can manifest fairly quickly after a birth although there may be no visible symptoms, particularly as those suffering from any type of depression do not necessarily "look" depressed and they may put on a brave face, often thinking they are in the wrong for feeling the way they do.

One way to spot postpartum depression in new mothers is by observing the way they behave with their new child. Often, sufferers will have difficulty in bonding with their infant and may appear distant from both the infant as well as a partner and other close friends and family.

No one knows for certain how many women are affected by postnatal illness, although the estimated figure is as many as one in five. Up to 80% of new mothers are affected by the "baby blues" commonly known as the "three day blues" because of it's manifestation on or around the time the baby is three days old. This can last up to around three weeks and, after this, should the new mother still be feeling "blue", there may be an indication that she is suffering from postpartum depression.

There is very little known about postpartum depression except that anyone, from any background, can suffer from it.

It is possible for a woman to have postpartum depression after one child but be perfectly fine after another. There is no absolute indication as to whether anyone is likely to develop postpartum depression although there are some potentially influential factors, for example, it is considered more likely to occur in women with a personal or family history of depression, younger mothers (under 25), women who have little support during and after pregnancy and those who already have other worries such as financial or relationship issues.

PPD can also occur in men. Symptoms are usually similar to those in mothers although they are triggered differently. In a woman, there are hormonal changes throughout pregnancy and birth which can contribute to the subsequent depression but, for fathers, it is more of a social change. A shock, suddenly not knowing where or how they fit in with this new life.

The three main treatments (for men or women) are:

  1. Counseling: Talking about a problem to someone who will listen can often be a huge relief and can go a considerable way to overcoming the illness altogether. Counselors can also give practical advice and help set achievable goals.
  2. Antidepressants: Have been proven to work but still carry risks, especially to breastfed babies. It is important to discuss and understand the risks and benefits of when considering this option.
  3. Hormone Therapy: There are risks involved such as decreased milk production and the potential to develop blood clots. Again, risks and benefits should be thoroughly discussed and considered before pursuing this option.

Both antidepressants and hormone therapy can have side effects, usually mild but can be serious so it is essential to discuss these with a medical professional.

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