Babies and their parents have a very special bond. The stronger you can make this bond, the better for your baby. However, postpartum depression can cause mothers to be inconsistent in caring for their children and make bonding difficult. The mother may be loving one minute and withdrawn the next. They may not respond at all to their child’s behavior, or they may respond in a negative way.
After having a baby, many women experience mood swings. One minute they feel happy, and the next, they are crying. The “baby blues” is a mild form of postpartum depression that usually starts one to three days after birth and lasts for about ten days to a few weeks. As many as 80% of new moms experience some form of baby blues.
But some new moms, about 13%, experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression, which is more serious than baby blues and lasts longer. It can start up to a few months after childbirth.
Baby Blues Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born — may include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Reduced concentration
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.
Postpartum Depression Symptoms
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you're not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
Postpartum Depression in New Fathers
New fathers can experience postpartum depression, too. The same symptoms that postpartum depressed women encounter include feeling down or exhausted, being overwhelmed, feeling anxious, or changing their regular eating and sleeping schedules.
The fathers most susceptible to postpartum depression are young, have a history of depression, have interpersonal issues, or are financially strapped. The same detrimental effects that postpartum depression in mothers can have on partner relationships and child development can also occur in postpartum depression in fathers, often known as paternal postpartum depression.
What to do next
If you think you may have postpartum depression, seek help. Talk to your doctor or health professional. It’s important to remember that postpartum depression is treatable.
It's essential to call your doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:
- Don't fade after two weeks
- Are getting worse
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby
- Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
If you have a family history of depression or have suffered from depression before, you are more at risk. Postpartum depression needs to be treated.
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