TUESDAY, May 16, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Becoming a mother is an experience like no other -- a time of joy, anticipation and love. But, for some women, new motherhood can come with challenging emotions.
Many women struggle with feelings of sadness, anxiety and overwhelming exhaustion. These emotional struggles, coupled with the physical demands of caring for a newborn, can be signs of a condition called postpartum depression (PPD).
What is postpartum depression?
About 1 in 7 women develop PPD, according to StatPearls. This mood disorder happens after childbirth. It's characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety and despair that can significantly impact a woman's ability to function and care for herself and her baby, according to the Mount Sinai Hospital Health Library.
Postpartum depression symptoms
According to Mount Sinai, PPD typically begins within the first few weeks after delivery, although it can develop up to 6 months after giving birth. Its exact cause is not fully understood, but hormone changes, emotional factors and lifestyle contributors such as lack of support, sleep deprivation and stress can contribute.
The most common postpartum depression symptoms cited in the article include:
PPD shares similarities with major or minor depression in terms of its emotional symptoms and the woman’s ability to care for her newborn. “Although the criteria are the same, how it presents can often be different, or it can be masked by the fact that they are pregnant,” said Dr. Tiffany Moore Simas, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. She added that there is much can be dangerous for mother and baby: difficulty bonding, loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia and feelings of guilt.
The other difference between postpartum depression and the “baby blues” is that PPD symptoms persist for more than two weeks and continue to impair a mother’s ability to function.
How long does postpartum depression last?
Left untreated, PPD can last several years, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. For some women, symptoms persist beyond the first year after giving birth and extend into the child's toddler years. It's important to note that with appropriate treatment and support, many women can recover from PPD and regain their emotional well-being much sooner.
What causes postpartum depression?
PPD may owe to a combination of biological, hormonal, psychological and social factors, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). These include:
Postpartum depression treatments
The Mayo Clinic says the duration of treatment and recovery for postpartum depression can vary based on the severity of your depression and your unique needs. If you have an underactive thyroid or any underlying health conditions contributing to your PPD, your health care provider may address those conditions or refer you to a specialist who can provide appropriate treatment.
When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first medication specifically designed to treat PPD in 2019, it marked a major milestone. A combination of medication and support from a mental health professional can provide support tailored to your needs.
Resources for PPD help
Understanding the symptoms, risk factors and available resources is crucial for supporting women with PPD on their path to recovery. If you or a loved one are experiencing signs of PPD, you can seek help from health care professionals who can provide appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
Additionally, there are resources such as the CDC's website on reproductive health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Helpline and Postpartum Support International. These offer information, support networks and helplines that can provide assistance. Remember, help is available, and no one should face PPD alone.