Postpartum depression is a severe form of depression that some new mothers may experience after childbirth. Symptoms include crying and sadness, loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawal from family and friends and thoughts of harming yourself or your baby. In very severe cases, the mother may experience hallucinations. Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression usually develop within the first four weeks following childbirth but may develop anytime within the first year. Recent studies have shown that 50% of the time, postpartum depression actually begins during the pregnancy. The cause is not known. Hormonal and physical changes after birth and the stress of caring for a new baby may play a role. A family or personal history of depression, anxiety or postpartum depression increases a woman’s risk of developing postpartum depression. Women who have diabetes or a thyroid imbalance, gone through infertility treatments, delivered multiples or prematurely, or had complications during pregnancy are also at an increased risk.
It is important to talk to seek help if you or a family member is experiencing signs of postpartum depression. If hallucinations or thoughts of self harm or harming the baby occur, seek immediate medical attention. Treatment is available. Postpartum depression can be treated with counseling and medications, such as antidepressants, and hormone therapy treatments. With the right treatment, postpartum depression may resolve in as little as one to two months. Talk with your doctor or midwife to decide the treatment options which will work best for you. Support groups are also a good source of up to date information and can help connect you with others affected by postpartum depression. See also depression.