Giving birth to a new baby is supposed to be one of the most joyous experiences a new mother can have. This is most certainly true for the majority out there, but there are an unfortunate few who drastically suffer both mentally and physically shortly after their baby is born. The effects of such a distressing state can indeed prove detrimental to both parents and, in a handful of cases, tragic for an infant. Post partum depression (PPD) is a categorised mood disorder that develops soon after giving birth to a child and it can affect both parents proportionately in its severity.
The condition is also known as postnatal depression and, in cases where the symptoms aren’t as severe, the maternity blues. While both parents can experience the symptoms in equal measure, the frequency of post partum depression affects mothers far more than it does the fathers. Around 15 percent of women are affected while figures are a little unsettled for men, ranging between one and 26 percent. The onset of the condition does not seem to discriminate between those who are having their very first child, their second or even a third.
Post partum depression is marked by severe bouts of extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns. These tend to be key trigger points and a parent afflicted as such could also see the symptoms trickle down where it could negatively affect a baby. Onset is typically between one week and one month following childbirth and either parent ought to suspect PPD if any of the above symptoms are unusually severe and when they last over prolonged periods – an episodic span of about two weeks tend to serve as an accurate indicator.
Oddly, and conversely, there is also a phenomenon known as the ‘baby pinks’. In such a situation some women experience an incredible sense of joy, an otherworldly feeling or a high, if you will that is typically irregular and does not draw level with their usual state of happiness. They will tend to react over-zealously and illogically when confronted with a variety of scenarios. It effectively is a mild to severe form of mania and the main drawback of this is that it usually serves as precursor or trigger for a pending depressive imbalance or postnatal psychosis. It is not exactly known what the underlying causes of post partum depression are, but there is a consensus that hormonal changes and exhaustion play significant roles.
In women, following the delivery of placenta, the body undergoes a radical hormone shift and a person can actually withdraw from the high levels of oestrogen, progesterone and endorphins that the body produced during pregnancy. Both men and women, however, can experience severe episodes of depression because of mental and physical exhaustion caused by sleep deprivation. Prior episodes of post partum depression, bipolar disorder, a family history of depression, psychological stress and complications of childbirth, lack of support, or a drug use disorder also seem to play their part in the onset of PPD.
Treatment still seems somewhat inexact, but not inconsequential. Therapy, medication and/or a combination of both tend to lessen the impact post partum depression has on an individual’s emotional, psychological and physical states. Interpersonal psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychodynamic therapy seem to be effective and these pair well with certain kinds of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for those who experience moderate to severe symptoms. Exercise has been proven to be an excellent combatant against mild and moderate cases of PPD, but it is best that this be augmented by reputable cognitive treatments.