A young mother sitting bed holding her baby.

Understanding and Managing Postpartum Depression

When Does Postpartum Depression Start?

Postpartum depression, also known as the baby blues, is common amongst mothers who’ve recently give birth, with almost 80% of mothers confirming that they experience severe conditions after delivery. Postpartum depression is likely to occur, no matter how prepared you are, and despite whether you had it with your last baby or not. However, not many understand why postpartum depression happens in the first place.

When it starts, how it starts, and what it is—whatever your questions are, here is all the information you need as a new mom.

An Overview of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is not a random condition but a major mental illness.

Postpartum depression starts as soon as you begin experiencing symptoms, which could arise one month or two after the mother gives birth.

Your doctor may diagnose this condition by taking into account the onset and delivery time and factoring in the severity of depression. However, postpartum depression doesn’t need to happen only during that early period. It can happen later on, even after you become used to being a mother. There’s no set time limit, unfortunately.

What Are the Causes of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression happens as a result of the changes that occur in the body post-birth. Keep in mind, you shelter a growing human inside your body for nine months, feeding it through your body, which expands as time goes. To ensure that the baby remains healthy, the body goes through many social, psychological, chemical, and physical changes.

Considering the rapid drop in hormones that the body experiences after giving birth, especially the decline in progesterone and estrogen after birth, it’s understandable why new mothers experience a psychological change.

What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is not exclusive to mothers. Numerous studies show that fathers also experience postpartum depression after birth but are less likely than women to ask for help.

Nevertheless, whether it’s the mother or the father, everyone must know the symptoms that signify postpartum depression. They are:

  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Impatience
  • Weeping and crying
  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of interest in pleasure and low libido
  • The feeling of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Thoughts of hurting someone, themselves, or the baby
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Showing and having no interest in the baby
  • Having difficulty in bonding with the baby

Postpartum depression is a scary, intimidating form of depression that can happen to any woman. However, if they have experienced some form of depression before or have a family history of mental health illnesses and depressive episodes, they may likely develop postpartum depression too.

Learning about Postpartum Psychosis

While learning about postpartum depression, you must understand the details of postpartum psychosis too. While it is a rate condition, postpartum psychosis can happen to anyone and is far different from the baby blues.

Postpartum psychosis goes beyond the severe conditions that postpartum depression causes. Those who have given birth may start experiencing symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • A low mood
  • Feeling confused

However, they may also experience the following alarming symptoms, such as:

  • Delusions of thoughts and beliefs that are not true
  • Hearing voices
  • Hallucinations
  • Manic mood changes
  • Talking too much or too quickly
  • Overthinking things
  • Loss of inhibitions
  • Feeling fearful or suspicious
  • Behaving in a very out-of-character way
  • Voicing concerns regarding self-harm and suicide
  • Voicing fear or ideas related to harming the baby

Postpartum psychosis symptoms begin within the first two weeks after the baby is born. This condition doesn’t take long to develop. If you, or someone you know, starts exhibiting these symptoms, call for medical help immediately.

Postpartum psychosis is a severe mental illness that can rapidly worsen if not treated immediately. For your sake and the baby’s, someone in charge must take action. The doctor may provide antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and antidepressants. They may also recommend electroconvulsive therapy and psychological help.

Are There Any Stages of Postpartum Depression?

If you are a parent experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, you will undoubtedly have some questions about your condition.

Can postpartum depression start later? When does postpartum depression peak?

For the first question, postpartum depression doesn’t have a set of rules for everyone who gives birth. To some, postpartum depression goes away within 6 – 8 weeks, as soon as they start taking medication.

However, a review of multiple studies on postpartum depression states that cases can last for up to three to six months, even up to a year. The symptoms may improve with time. But unfortunately, the review states that at least less than half of the women in various studies reported depressive symptoms three years postpartum.

This may scare you. But depending on your condition, you could still have a shorter period of postpartum depression. The key is to catch your depression in time.

How Do You Treat Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is, after all, a form of mental illness. Because of its severity and impact on the patient’s health, many professional physicians prescribe medication, such as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. They will likely recommend psychotherapy, as well as participation in an emotional support group.

Your doctor may also recommend the latter options if you’re breastfeeding since they will not want you to take any oral medication during that time.

To ensure that you manage your depression postpartum, the doctor may also provide some extra information to improve your health. You will need to rest and sleep when your baby sleeps, limit phone calls and visitors during the first two months when you come home, and keep in touch with friends and family once in a while.

They will also advise against consuming caffeine and alcohol and recommend exercise and a good diet to keep your mood healthy.

Final Thoughts

Postpartum depression is not an easy condition to manage.

Some days you will feel a little down in the dumps, but that’s okay. What matters here is that you keep yourself and your baby healthy and happy. You’ve brought a new life into this world, and that is a significant achievement. Enjoy this time with your newborn and loved ones, and don’t let those inner demons win.

It’s a long road ahead, but you will get through it.