The birth of a baby is supposed to be a joyous occasion and, for many, it is so. However, statistics show than anywhere up to 20% of new mothers may feel quite the opposite.
What is Post Partum Depression?
Post Partum depression is difficult to describe as, simlarly to other types of depression, it can manifest itself in different ways. In the worst cases, a new mother may feel that she does not have any love for her baby and distance herself to such an extent that she is neglectful of the child. Other cases may not be so severe but will usually involve some form of the new mother making herself distant from other people including her partner.
It is thought that anywhere up to 80% of new mothers suffer from “baby blues”. This is a mild form of depression which often happens when the baby is three days old and is, therefore, often referred to as the “three day blues”. This will usually feel like an overwhelming sadness or feeling that the mother can not cope with her new baby. This will usually be overcome after a few days but can last up to three weeks. If these feelings of “sadness” continue for longer than three weeks, or are joined by further symptoms including distancing from other people, especially partner and baby, then medical advice should be sought as it is likely that this is the first stage of post partum depression.
What Are the Symptoms?
Very little is known about post partum depression and its symptoms. There are usually no outward signs as it is an emotional illness which, therefore, can be difficult to diagnose. The main symptoms which manifest in most cases are feelings of unusually deep sadness along with difficulty or reluctance in bonding with the newborn child.
Who Can Suffer from Post Partum Depression?
The truth of the matter is that anyone can suffer. It is, however, thought that women in the following categories are “higher risk”:
- History (personal or family) of depression
- Under 25
- Those with little or no support from a partner or family
- Those with relationship, financial or other difficult issues during or shortly after pregnancy
While these groups are considered higher risk, there is no reason to think that it will definitely happen to women in those groups nor that it could not happen to women outside those groups.
Post Partum Depression in Men
It may not be widely known but it is perfectly possible for men to suffer from post natal illness. Symptoms may be similar to those in women although the reasons are very different. Women go through hormonal and emotional changes during pregnancy and birth, these changes probably contributing significantly to the woman’s mental state. For men, on the other hand, it is, perhaps, a “social” change, beginning with the feeling of uncertainty, not knowing what to do or how they are supposed to “fit in” around this new little life.
Treatments for Post Partum Depression
For men, the solution may be as simple as reassurance and inclusion. This may be a good first step for men or women, however advanced the Post Partum Depression. Sometimes having an “outsider” such as a counselor or a post natal professional to talk to can be a huge relief as well as offering practical advice and achievable, realistic goals.
If further treatment is needed, there is the option of antidepressants. There are several types available but all of them have side effects, including weight gain. They are also thought to carry risks for breastfed babies. This option should be considered carefully with all of the facts weighed up.
A third option is hormone therapy which would usually be a last resort as this can decrease milk production and cause blood clots to develop. Again, this option should be considered very carefully before making a decision.
Whichever option is chosen, always seek advice from a medical professional.