What Causes Postpartum Anxiety
Postpartum anxiety is caused by a combination of biological and environmental factors. When it comes to biological factors, significant hormonal changes during pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum and sleep deprivation play a role in the development of postpartum anxiety. In regards to environmental causes, the demands and stress of caring for a newborn can be taxing for new mothers, particularly those with less social support.
When Should I Contact My Doctor About Postpartum Depression
The Baby Blues are natural and understandable in the first two weeks after giving birth. If you are starting to notice these feelings lingering beyond the two week period, it might be cause for concern. Most new mothers have a follow-up appointment with their physician within the first 4 to 6 weeks after giving birth. If you have been noticing symptoms of PPD you should tell your physician and they can advise you. Also, feel free to discuss these feelings with our pediatrician when your baby has appointments. Pediatricians now routinely screen mothers for PPD at their infants weight check and check up appointments.
You certainly dont have to wait that long to seek help for postpartum depression, especially if the symptoms you are experiencing are severe. Remember, help is always available!
Postpartum Depression In Men
The stresses of new parenthood, including changes in hormone levels, predominantly affect women however, men can suffer from postpartum depression, too. Men often show declines in testosterone, one of the most important androgen hormones, throughout their partners pregnancy and after childbirth. Mood changes associated with hormone fluctuations can be exacerbated by a lack of sleep, big changes to living arrangements, genetics or family history, a history of substance abuse or mental health disorders, and negative feelings about being a parent.
Some estimates suggest as many as 25 percent of men develop some form of depression after their partner has a new baby. This could range from mild symptoms like the baby blues to more serious postpartum depression symptoms. The condition is called paternal postnatal depression, to distinguish it from the condition suffered by new mothers.
Men with lower testosterone experience higher rates of depression compared to standard hormone levels. Low levels of testosterone contribute to:
- Lethargy or higher levels of exhaustion
- Developing anhedonia
- Mood swings, restlessness, or irritability
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When Does Postpartum Depression Typically Start
PPD can begin as soon as you give birth, but you probably wont realize it right away since its considered normal to feel sad, exhausted, and generally out of sorts during the first few days after baby arrives. It may not be until after the typical baby blue time frame should have passed that you realize something more serious is going on.
The postpartum period generally includes the first 46 weeks after birth, and many cases of PPD begin during that time. But PPD can also develop during pregnancy and up to 1 year after giving birth, so dont discount your feelings if theyre happening outside of the typical postpartum period.
How Long Does Postpartum Anxiety Last
Unlike the baby blues, which last about two weeks, postpartum anxiety doesn’t always go away on its own. It’s crucial to seek help if anxiety is disrupting your sleep or you’re constantly preoccupied with worries. “In moderate to severe untreated cases, postpartum anxiety can last indefinitely,” Smith says. “Perinatal mood disorders don’t always disappear on their own. In fact, in some cases, if left untreated, they can set women up for a lifelong bout with mental illness.”
Fortunately, there are a number of postpartum anxiety treatments, but the burden often falls on you to bring it to a doctor’s attention. When researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston screened 491 mothers for postpartum anxiety or depression six weeks after they gave birth, 17 percent had one or the otheryet the majority of them had not been diagnosed.
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When Does Postpartum Depression Start
The onset of postpartum depression is typically seen in parents when their child is between the newborn stage and 6 months of age. The experience, however, is not limited to the first six months after birth.
The American Psychiatric Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists use the modifier “postpartum” to note when a person is diagnosed with depression within the first year after the birth of a child.
However, some people feel the effects of postpartum depression longer than a year after giving birth. As more people open up about their experiences with postpartum depression, it’s becoming clear that the condition affects each individual differently.
Prevention Of Postpartum Anxiety
If you believe that you are at risk for developing postpartum anxiety, you should consider telling your OBGYN or midwife during your pregnancy. If they are aware of your risk, they may be more likely to check in on you and schedule your postpartum visit earlier.
Having a good support symptom during the postpartum period is linked to lower levels of anxiety in women.12 Support systems can be beneficial because they provide an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling, listen to other women who may have experienced something similar, and give and receive advice. Support systems may also assist with childcare or household chores, which can alleviate some of the burdens on you during this time. To help prevent postpartum anxiety, make an effort to remain connected to your support system throughout your pregnancy and the postpartum period. If your support system is limited, you can consider joining an existing support group, mommy-and-me class, or creating your own group.
Taking care of your body and mind can also help prevent postpartum anxiety. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising , and getting adequate rest. If you are having trouble sleeping, you can speak with your provider, who may be able to offer you some options. If your lack of sleep is related to your baby, you can speak with your childs pediatrician, who may be able to provide tips, or ask your support system for help so you can get more rest.
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When Depression Goes Undiagnosed
If postpartum depression goes undiagnosed, it can continue for months or years, long past the one-year postpartum period.
A 2020 study of more than 4,500 women found that 5% of those studied reported persistently high levels of postpartum depression symptoms for three years after giving birth. These results suggested that women may still need screenings for maternal depression after the postpartum period ends.
I’ve seen a patient many years after having a child whose depressive symptoms originated postpartum, and they were never treated, says Dr. Basch. In that case, even although they were out of the postpartum period, their diagnosis would be considered postpartum depression.
The good news is that postpartum depression is highly treatable, and the length of a postpartum depressive episode is shortened with prompt treatment, Dr. Basch explains.
Postpartum Anxiety Vs Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is another type of perinatal mood and anxiety disorder that women can develop after giving birth.7 PPD is a mood disorder that involves feeling sad and tearful for at least two weeks. Other symptoms of PPD include fatigue, irritability, lack of interest in pleasurable activities, feeling guilty or worthless, restlessness, problems with concentration, changes in sleeping patterns, and suicidal thoughts.
PPD and postpartum anxiety are similar in that both conditions can cause symptoms like irritability, fatigue, sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, and negative thoughts.4 Both can significantly impact a womans life and affect her ability to care for herself and her children, as well as keep up with responsibilities at home, work, school, and in relationships. However, the main difference between the two conditions is that the primary symptom in PPD is sadness, while the primary symptom of postpartum anxiety is excessive worry.
Some women may suffer from both PPD and postpartum anxiety at the same time. A woman with both conditions will feel depressed and sad most of the time, as well as fearful and anxious. This combination can cause considerable distress for a woman. Fortunately, there are treatments available, including therapy and medication, that can address symptoms of both PPD and postpartum anxiety at the same time.
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It Can Start Before Birth
Since this type of depression is called postpartum depression, that can lead a person to think that they can only start to develop it after they have given birth to a baby. However, this phenomenon can actually start much earlier than people think. It doesn’t always wait until after a baby has arrived to affect the mother. According to postpartum.org, that could actually be a myth about postpartum depression, since it can start before a woman’s pregnancy has even ended. However, it usually pops up between four to six weeks after a woman has given birth most of the time.
What Is Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is rare. It happens in up to 4 new mothers out of every 1,000 births. It usually begins in the first 2 weeks after childbirth. It is a medical emergency. Women who have bipolar disorder or another mental health condition called schizoaffective disorder have a higher risk of postpartum psychosis. Symptoms may include:
- Seeing or hearing things that arent there
- Feeling confused most of the time
- Having rapid mood swings within several minutes
- Trying to hurt yourself or your baby
- Restlessness or agitation
- Behaving recklessly or in a way that is not normal for you
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How Long Depression Lasts Depends On Many Factors
Depression affects everyone differently.
Even though there are a few established symptoms of the condition, not everyone experiences them in the same way.
For some people, depression symptoms are persistent over the years. For others, symptoms will come and go at times.
Some research suggests that the symptoms of clinical depression can last an average of 10 months if no other mental health conditions are present.
But this is not always the case. Because there are different types of depression, symptom duration varies greatly.
For example, a depressive episode caused by mourning might last a few days or weeks and often resolves on its own.
In most cases, however, depression requires the support of a health professional.
There are many types of depression, and the type youre experiencing may impact how long or intense your symptoms are.
Symptoms Of Postpartum Ptsd
Everyone experiences postpartum PTSD differently, but it is characterized by feelings of hypervigilance, fear, and intrusive thoughts.
Your feelings of panic may be elicited by thinking about something frightening that happened during childbirth, such as being rushed to the operating room for a C-section. Your emotions may be easily triggered when someone mentions something related to your childbirth or anything traumatic that happened to you during birth or postpartum.
Other symptoms of postpartum PTSD include:
- Avoidance of any reminders of the traumatizing events
- Avoidance of people or institutions associated with the traumatizing event, such as doctors or hospitals
- Sleep disturbances and frequent nightmares
- Flashbacks to the traumatic event
- Intrusive thoughts/images related to the trauma
- Being easily startled
- A general feeling that you or your baby are in danger
- Frequent panic attacks
- Feeling easily irritated or aggravated
- Feeling detached from others
- Wanting to withdraw from relationships
- Blaming yourself for the traumatic event
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Signs Of Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression can have a broad range of symptoms. These can vary in how severe they are.
You may be feeling sad, anxious and alone. You may be feeling guilty, irritable and angry. You may be experiencing panic attacks. You may not enjoy being with people, even your baby.
Other symptoms of postnatal depression include:
- loss of appetite
Feelings and thoughts you might experience include:
- feeling inadequate
- feeling rejected by your baby
- worrying a lot about your baby
Obsessive behaviour may be another sign of postnatal depression. You may have overwhelming fears, for example about your baby dying. Some mothers have recurring thoughts about harming their baby. Very few mothers ever act on this.
Get help from your GP or public health nurse if these feelings or symptoms last for more than 2 weeks or if you have any thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Do not let worrying thoughts you may have about your baby stop you from seeking help. Effective treatment is available. The vast majority of women with postnatal depression are treated at home with their baby.
Your family and friends may notice that you have postnatal depression before you do. If they mention this to you, take it seriously and seek help from your GP or public health nurse.
When Do Postpartum Depression Symptoms Start
Postpartum depression can start to manifest shortly after giving birth. At first, it can be masked by the general exhaustion and physical changes that all new mothers experience in the early weeks. It may not be until after the initial two-week period of time that you notice feeling out of sorts or struggling emotionally to connect with your baby.
Statistically, 9% of women meet the criteria for PPD within the first year after giving birth. Most postpartum depression symptoms start to deepen over the first four to six weeks after delivery.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a very distressing thing for a new mom to deal with. It’s worth remembering though that it can happen to anyone, and is no one’s fault. Most importantly, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother.
If you have any concerns, raise them with a medical professional as soon as possible. There is a lot of support available, and with it, postpartum depression can be dealt with, allowing you to make a full recovery, and get back to enjoying quality time with your little one.
How Does Postpartum Depression Get Diagnosed
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression, make sure to let a medical professional, such as a midwife or doctor, know as soon as possible. Your partner, or other friends and family may notice symptoms when you don’t, so it can be useful to let them know what to look out for.
Discussing your symptoms with a professional can lead to you getting a diagnosis, usually from a doctor or a psychologist. Once diagnosed, you can start receiving treatment.
Treatments can vary depending on the symptoms you are presenting. You may be offered medicine and or talk therapy, or helped with joining a support group so you can chat with other moms who are experiencing postpartum depression – this is usually done online or over the phone. You can also receive help from a maternal health education program.
It’s also vital to never underestimate the importance of self-care! Eating well, getting some exercise, and setting aside time to relax and unwind can work wonders, and so can ensuring you’re sleeping enough.
When it comes to sleep, a good way of making sure you’re sleeping well is ensuring that your baby is as well. To that end, it can be worth following a baby sleep schedule such as the following:
7am – your baby should be awake
9:30am-11:30am – this is a good time for your baby’s first nap
2pm-4pm – this is when your baby should be taking their second nap
7pm-7:30pm – this is when you should begin your baby’s bedtime routine, before letting them sleep the night
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