Postpartum depression (PPD) is characterized by a wide range of symptoms of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that are often left misdiagnosed and unnoticed. Yet, mothers are not getting the proper treatment they need that often lead to severe complications and tragedies that could have been prevented.
The stigma on mental health issues has left mothers afraid to tell their struggle with depression and anxiety. PPD is serious illness that needs prompt medical attention but many do not realize its severity until tragedy hits.
An estimated 9 to 16 percent of women who gave birth will experience a form of postpartum depression. Baby blues are considered normal due to role constraint among new mothers but if it extends for a longer period of time, immediate medical attention is needed.
In the past three months, three mothers from New York City have thrown their babies off windows who have fallen to their deaths. With the increase of incidents linked to PPD, awareness regarding its signs, symptoms and treatment is important.
Normally, mothers feel exhausted because of childbirth, lack of sleep, overwhelmed feeling of having a new baby, stress from home routines and sudden change in their roles. They might experience symptoms that include mood swings, feelings of anxiety or sadness, irritability, crying for no reason, reduced concentration, appetite problems and insomnia or trouble sleeping.
However, when mothers suffer from PPD, they will experience signs and symptoms ranging from severe mood swings, excessive crying, social withdrawal or isolation, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, and feelings of worthlessness, anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, thoughts of hurting oneself or the baby may manifest.
Mothers should seek immediate medical attention when their feeling of depression lasts for more than two weeks and suicidal thoughts occur. There is no definite diagnostic test for PPD but health care practitioners gather comprehensive medical, family, and mental health history to determine increased risk for the condition.
Treatment options include adequate and timely mental health care, prevention of the illness through support systems, cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal therapy, and psychotherapy (talk therapy). For severe cases, medication therapy could be done to alleviate some depressive symptoms.
The support of family and friends is the most important preventive measure of PPD. It helps mothers reduce the feeling of being burdened by the responsibilities of being a mother. Cutting down on some responsibilities to lessen the workload of mothers can also help prevent the feeling of exhaustion that could trigger depression.