Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that affects 8-12% of women after giving birth.
In the days immediately following the birth of their child, many new mothers develop a form of transient depression called "baby blues"(referring to the state of melancholy, irritability and restlessness that characterizes the phenomenon). It is a rather common reaction, often caused by physical and mental exhaustion due to labor and delivery. The symptoms are typically mild and, usually, they tend to disappear within 7-10 days.
On the other hand, the postpartum depression real is manifested by more intense symptoms, which develop over 3 months and last more than 2 weeks. The disorder therefore interferes with the normal performance of daily activities and affects the ability to care for the newborn.
The exact causes of postpartum depression have not yet been defined, however, if the woman has previously suffered from a depressive disorder, the risk is greater. Many other factors can contribute to the onset of the disease: hormonal changes that occur during the puerperium (sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone hormones), sleep deprivation, lack of partner or family support, and genetic predisposition .
Postpartum depression can manifest itself with extreme sadness, irritability, crying spells without
apparent reasons, lack of energy, easy fatigue, and impaired ability to think or concentrate. Headaches and myalgias, sleep disturbances (insomnia or difficulty staying awake), loss of appetite or hyperphagia may develop. The new mother may present with feelings of guilt, low self-esteem, and a loss of interest in carrying out usual activities.
Towards the newborn, women feel inadequate and manifest anxiety, excessive worries or disinterest. Postpartum depression also involves difficulties in interacting and attaching to the child, who can report problems with cognitive, social and emotional development. In some cases, postpartum depression even induces recurrent negative thoughts and increases the risk of suicide and infanticide.
Diagnosis is based on clinical evaluation. Postpartum depression must be distinguished from so-called puerperal psychosis, a very rare and more serious disorder. The women who suffer from it present states of confusion, severe changes in mood and behavior, hallucinations and delusions.
Treatment involves psychotherapy or the administration of antidepressant drugs, taking into account the possible side effects on the mother and the newborn, especially in the case of breastfeeding. Without treatment, postpartum depression can resolve spontaneously or develop into a chronic form.
Most common symptoms and signs *
- Increased appetite
- Decreased sexual desire
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood Disorders
- Muscular pains
- Nervous breakdown
- Social isolation
- Weight loss
- Mood Swings
* Symptoms highlighted in bold are typical, but not exclusive, of Postpartum Depression Disorder