16 Jan When is it NOT the Postpartum Blues?
An expectant mother is usually enjoying the journey of pregnancy when that day finally comes when her new bundle of joy arrives! There is euphoria, but at the same time an overwhelming since of responsibility and continuous questioning on whether you are doing the right thing. Most mothers get through this hurdle with some ups and downs in mood until they fall into a routine and gain more confidence daily of their ability to be a good mom. Other mothers’ moods stay down and result in their inability to care for themselves or their newborn. These mothers may unintentionally put themselves or their babies at risk if their own diagnosis of depression is not recognized or treated.
Postpartum depression is a true diagnosis that must be considered and recognized quickly. There should be no guilt, embarrassment, or fear in seeking treatment. The mother and baby will be better off for it.
Untreated postpartum depression puts the mother and infant at increased risk and can result in developmental and behavioral effects on the infant. Screening for postpartum depression needs to happen quickly so effective treatment can be started before possible harm comes to the mother and/or infant.
During the postpartum period, it is reported that 85% of women experience some type of mood disorder. The AAP estimates that about 400,000 infants are delivered each year to mothers that are depressed. For most mothers the mood swings and feeling of being overwhelmed are transient and short lived once they settle into their new baselines as new moms. About 10–25% of women experience disabling and persistent depression which needs to be addressed and treated.
Hormone levels of estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol decrease dramatically within the 48 hours after delivery. Whether a mother has postpartum depression or not does not seem to be linked to her levels of estrogen, progesterone, or cortisol.
Are Some Women More at Risk?
Women who have conflicts with their significant other, death in the family, no social support networks, financial difficulties, or unemployment are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.
Mothers with prior history of depression or family history of psychiatric disorders are also at increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
There is also a diagnosis of postpartum blues which peak on the fourth or fifth day after delivery and last for several days, BUT these symptoms are usually self-limited and usually dissipate within the first two postpartum weeks. The mother is still able to take proper care of her infant and completes her daily functions with no difficulty. Women with more severe symptoms or symptoms persisting longer than two weeks should be screened for postpartum depression.
Women who feel that they are suffering from postpartum depression should consult with their primary care physician or gynecologist immediately. It shows strength to recognize one’s ailment and pursue treatment, especially when the ailment may affect an innocent child.