The birth of a baby is often considered one of the happiest times in a family's life, but for some it can be a stressful time that can lead to signs of depression. Postpartum depression is a pathology that can affect both mothers and fathers after the birth of their baby. This condition varies in intensity depending on the symptoms present and can last a long time without proper treatment. It is estimated that 10-20% of women suffer from postpartum depression after the birth of their child. This disorder is still largely unknown and therefore deserves to be better understood.
What is the postpartum period?
The postpartum period (or puerperium) refers to the 6 to 8 weeks following childbirth. It is a period of recovery and adaptation for the mother, during which her body returns to its normal state after pregnancy and childbirth.
The postpartum period can be physically and emotionally difficult, with symptoms including abdominal pain, bleeding, breast pain, or fatigue.
In addition to physical changes, the postpartum period can also bring emotional turmoil that can lead to postpartum depression.
What is postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that can develop in the weeks and months after giving birth. It is a serious mental disorder that can significantly affect a woman's ability to care for her baby and herself during this important time in her life.
Postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, can appear anytime within 12 months of birth. Postpartum depression is more severe than the baby blues and requires proper management.
Postpartum depression can occur even when a woman has a healthy baby or a good relationship with her partner and family. In some cases, women may not even know they have depression until that it begins to have negative effects on their physical and emotional health.
Studies show that postnatal depression is usually more common in the first three months after childbirth and slowly decreases over time. The number of mothers with depressive signs without suffering from postpartum depression is higher between three and six months after childbirth. It can be difficult to differentiate the signs of depression from the usual fatigue during this period.
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression can include feeling sad and hopeless, intense fatigue, persistent anxiety, feelings of guilt and overwork, and difficulty bonding with your baby.
Women who were prone to depression before their pregnancy or who had to deal with difficulties such as a lack of support, poor living conditions or other health problems are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
The most common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Feelings of sadness, fear and hopelessness
- Panic attacks and anxiety
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
- Low energy and fatigue
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Irritability and mood swings
- Difficulties concentrating
- Difficulty bonding with baby
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Violent and suicidal thoughts
How to differentiate between postpartum depression and the baby blues?
Postpartum depression and baby blues are two distinct conditions that can occur after childbirth. The difference between these two situations lies in their duration and intensity. While the baby blues is a normal, passing situation for many new mothers, postpartum depression is a more severe and persistent form of depression that requires treatment.
The baby blues usually start in the first days after childbirth and last from a few days to a few weeks. Symptoms of baby blues include mood swings, irritability, crying, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Although these symptoms can be distressing, they do not interfere with a woman's ability to care for her baby.
However, when symptoms persist for more than a week, worsen and settle over time, it may be postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a more serious illness that requires medical or psychological care.
What are the causes of postpartum depression?
Postnatal depression is caused by a combination of factors, all of which have the power to trigger and maintain a depressive state. Physiological causes such as hormonal changes, lack of sleep and exhaustion may partially explain postpartum depression. However, the major life changes that the birth of a child entails can also trigger depression, especially if the mother feels overwhelmed and unsettled between her obligations and her hobbies.
The arrival of a child causes the mother to adopt a new role, which entails a significant rearrangement of her own identity. This change can often lead her to look back on the relationship she had with her own mother, thus causing significant psychological upheaval. In addition, the arrival of a child can be synonymous with mourning, especially for the life before, the dream child or the fantasized motherhood.
In addition, the arrival of a newborn can be associated with heavy expectations (reconciliation of a couple in difficulty, strengthening of self-esteem or filling of an emotional void). In these cases, the disappointment of the reality of the baby's arrival can cause depression in the first weeks.
What are the risks of developing postpartum depression?
The exact causes of postpartum depression are still largely unknown, but several risk factors may contribute to its onset.
- Hormonal changes: Levels of different hormones can fluctuate dramatically during pregnancy and after childbirth, which can contribute to the onset of postpartum depression.
- History of depression: Women who have previously suffered from depression or a mood disorder are at higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
- Stress: Stress can play an important role in the onset of postpartum depression. New mothers can be stressed by lack of sleep, new parenting responsibilities, changes in their personal and professional lives, and social expectations.
- History of Trauma or Abuse: Women who have experienced trauma or abuse in the past may be at higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
- Physiological factors: Physiological factors such as fatigue, anemia, dehydration, lack of nutrients, and other health issues can contribute to the onset of postpartum depression.
Ultimately, postpartum depression is a complex disorder that can be caused by a combination of personal, biological, and environmental factors.
The consequences of postpartum depression in mother and child
Postpartum depression can have serious and lasting consequences for the mother. Depression can affect a mother's ability to relate to and care for her baby, which can affect the mother-child relationship and the emotional development of the child. Postpartum depression can also affect a mother's social life and relationships, as well as her work and financial life. Symptoms of postpartum depression can also make it difficult for the mother to manage her daily life, which can lead to feelings of saturation and exhaustion.
The consequences of postpartum depression can also be felt in the long term by the child. A depressed mother may have difficulty caring for her baby, which can affect the child's emotional development. Additionally, children born to mothers with postpartum depression may experience mental and emotional health issues later in life, such as developmental problems, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, and depression. Children may also be at greater risk for poor behavior and learning difficulties.
Early diagnosis and treatment of postpartum depression is therefore essential to minimize its negative impact on mother and child.
How long does postpartum depression last?
The duration of postpartum depression varies from woman to woman. However, in general, symptoms of postpartum depression can begin within weeks of birth and can last from a few weeks to several months. In rare cases, postpartum depression can last up to a year or more. Some mothers may feel better within weeks, while others may struggle with depressive symptoms for months or even years.
Postpartum depression is not a single event, but an ongoing process that can persist over time. The recovery process often involves many different factors, such as the severity of the depression, prompt and adequate treatment, the means of support available, and the mother's ability to cope with the stresses of motherhood.
It's worth pointing out that postpartum depression can get worse if not treated quickly and properly, so it's important to seek help as soon as possible.
postpartum depression in fathers
Moms-to-be are often told about postpartum depression during their prenatal appointments, but dads-to-be aren't as often.
However, postpartum depression in fathers is a common phenomenon that can affect up to 10% of fathers after the birth of their child. Men are generally reluctant to express their emotions and seek help, which can lead to accelerated depressive symptoms and worsening postpartum depression. It is important to make fathers aware of this problem to help them through this difficult period.
How to get out of postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can be a difficult process, but there are ways to get out of it. It is important to understand that depression is an illness that requires proper treatment. If left untreated, depression can last a long time. Therefore, if a mother or father thinks they may be suffering from postpartum depression, it is important that they talk to a healthcare professional, such as a doctor, psychologist or nurse.
In general, the time it takes to overcome postpartum depression can vary depending on the severity of the depression and the response to different treatments. It is important to persevere and continue treatment until the symptoms are under control. Support and encouragement from family and friends can be invaluable in helping mothers overcome postpartum depression.
Here are some steps to help overcome postpartum depression:
- Get an accurate diagnosis: The first step to getting out of postpartum depression is to get an accurate diagnosis. It is important to see a doctor or psychologist to assess symptoms and identify the cause of depression.
- Talk to a therapist: Psychotherapy can help deal with the negative emotions and thoughts associated with postpartum depression. A therapist can also help develop strategies for coping with everyday stressors.
- Take care of yourself : Self-care is important to help overcome postpartum depression. It is important to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get enough rest, and engage in relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation.
- Ask for help : Postpartum depression can be overwhelming, so it's important not to be shy about asking for help. Loved ones, family and friends can be very supportive by providing attentive listening and helping with household chores.
- Medicines: In some cases, medications may be needed to treat postpartum depression. Some people may benefit from psychotherapy, while others may need antidepressants for a while. In any case, it is important to speak with a doctor to determine if medication is appropriate for you.
How to prevent and avoid postpartum depression?
To prevent postpartum depression, several steps can be taken. First of all, it is important to detect anxiety or depressive disorders in women during pregnancy. This makes it possible to diagnose them in time and treat them to prevent their extension to the postpartum period.
Also, knowing the symptoms of postpartum depression is crucial for recognizing the signs early and seeking help when needed. The support of those around you can also help mothers get through this difficult period better.
It is also important not to forget fathers in this prevention work. Indeed, they can also suffer from postpartum depression and it is important to include them in the follow-up from the start of pregnancy to prepare them for their role as parents. Good communication between parents can reduce the risk of postpartum depression in fathers, and preparing for the baby's arrival can help them feel less left out of the mother-baby relationship.
Since July 1, young mothers have been systematically offered an early postnatal interview in order to better support them in the weeks following childbirth. This appointment can be organized between the 4th and 8th week after delivery, with a midwife or a doctor.
The purpose of this interview is to detect the first signs of postpartum depression, such as depression or anxiety, fatigue, unstable mood, etc. It also helps identify risk factors that may expose parents to this form of depression, such as isolation and stressful events. Finally, the health professional can assess the needs of the woman or the couple in terms of support.
If the health professional deems it necessary or if the parents wish, a second interview can be offered between the 10th and 14th week after delivery to continue the support. This appointment is covered up to 70% by health insurance.
Turning postpartum depression into a positive experience
Overcoming postpartum depression can be a difficult journey, but it is not an impossible task. By taking the time to understand your own experience and developing a support system of experienced professionals and understanding loved ones, you can take steps to heal from postpartum depression and fully enjoy your new family life.