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PPD is the most common complication of childbirth impacting 10-20% of postpartum mothers. It is a medical illness triggered by the interaction between genetics, hormones, brain chemistry and psycho-social stressors that impair a woman's mood and her ability to function. Postpartum Depression may affect the well-being of the entire family. Prompt, effective treatment is essential for the mother and the well-being of her baby.
Consider professional help if you answer yes to several of the following:
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you have difficulty getting up and starting your day?
- Are you concerned your depressed mood is affecting your baby?
- Do you feel overwhelmed when you care for your baby?
- Do you feel depressed and moody most of the time?
- Do you feel like hurting yourself or your baby?
- Do you feel more irritable or nervous than usual?
- Do you feel you don't care about anything around you?
- Do you feel guilty or worthless?
- Is it difficult to concentrate or make decisions?
- Have your eating habits changed?
- Are you chronically tired?
- Are you alone with your baby most of the day?
- Has anyone told you that you don't seem yourself since giving birth?
Know Your Risk Factors of PPD
No woman is immune to PPD but some mothers may be at greater risk. Research suggests that there are genetic, biological, as well as psychological factors involved in PPD. The following biochemical and psycho-social factors may indicate mothers at risk.
- Genetic predisposition where a blood relative has experienced a depressive disorder.
- Personal history of a previous PPD or a clinical depression not associated with pregnancy or birth.
- Hormonal changes following birth
- Isolation from family and friends
- Lack of support from spouse & / or marital tension
- Traumatic labor and birth experience
- Giving birth to a premature or sick baby
- Mothers with severe PMS (also known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
- Chronic sleep deprivation
- Abrupt weaning
- Thyroid dysfunction
A woman who identifies several of these risk factors should inform her health practitioner and familiarize herself with the symptoms of PPD should they occur.
After delivery, it is important to know that some women experience symptoms of anxiety rather than depression. Anxiety is expressed in different ways for different women. Some will develop constant worry and physical complaints, while others experience obsessive, compulsive thoughts that are frightening and scary to admit. Some women will suffer from another type of anxiety that creates intense feelings of panic and fear they are losing control.
Consider professional help if you are experiencing:
- Constant worrying
- Hyper-vigilant concerns about the baby
- Frequent mood changes
- Appetite and sleep disturbances
- Distractibility and poor concentration
- A sense of memory loss
- Scary thoughts of harm towards the baby that may leave a mother feeling horror and disgust about the intrusive thoughts
- Recognition that these frightening, intrusive thoughts are not rational
- Compulsive behaviors such as counting, checking, cleaning, hand washing, etc…
- Episodes of extreme anxiety lasting from 10 to 30 minutes
- Episodes can unexpectedly occur in the middle of the night
- SOB, chest pain, a sensation of choking or smothering
- Hot or cold flashes, palpitations, trembling
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, numbness or tingling
- Restlessness & agitation
- Fear of dying, having a heart attack, going crazy or losing control
Pregnancy & Infant Loss
The death of a baby is a devastating loss and the ability to grieve is essential to the emotional well-being of a mother and father.
Consider grief counseling if:
- You need more support than family or friends can offer
- Depressive symptoms worsen after two to three months
- You are not satisfied with your progress
- Family or friends express concern for you