Are There Certain Moms Who Will Experience Postpartum Depression?
You’ve just had a baby and there is joy and happiness coming at you from everyone you see. Then why do you feel so down? When your friend had a baby last year, she couldn’t stop beaming for months, but all you want to do is curl up in a ball in a dark room, all alone.
Chances are, if you’ve felt this way for more than a month after giving birth, you’re most likely experiencing postpartum depression. But why you? Why did your friend feel fine after having her baby, but you’re finding it hard to even bond with your child?
There is no test to predict whether or not you will have postpartum depression after pregnancy, or who definitively will or won’t get a lot more than a short-term case of the “baby blues.” There are, however, risk factors that can contribute to your chances of slipping into a deep depression following pregnancy. You can’t prevent most of them, but you will have time to prepare for the possible situation, if it comes to light.
The most common risk factor for having postpartum depression is mental illness in you or a family member. If you had bipolar disorder, depression, an eating disorder, or other mental health issues either before or during your pregnancy, your chances for postpartum depression increase. The odds are also increased if someone in your family dealt with or deals with a mental health issue.
In fact, data collected from 1,863 new mothers (surveyed as part of the 1996–2006 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey) showed that more than half of the women who had postpartum depression had mental health issues, either before or during pregnancy. Women were twice as likely to have postpartum depression if their mental health problems started before their pregnancy, and those who struggled with mental health issues during pregnancy had an 11-times higher risk of postpartum depression.
“We really showed that a woman’s mental health status before and during pregnancy is a strong predictor of poor mental health after delivery,” said study author Whitney Witt, PhD, MPH, and assistant professor in the department of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison. “We looked at the domino effect: If women are in poor mental health before pregnancy, then they are more likely to have poor mental health during pregnancy, and even more likely to have poor mental health afterwards,” he said of the study’s results.
Beyond Mental Health
Beyond mental health issues, there are many other risk factors that can predispose a new mother to postpartum depression, such as:
- Being under the age of 20
- Abusing drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
- Not anticipating the pregnancy, or having mixed feelings about it
- Being single with a poor support system from friends or family
- Having money, housing, or relationship problems
- Having pregnancy problems or pain after delivery
- Having had postpartum depression during a previous pregnancy
And the list goes on.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as the symptoms of depression that crop up at other times in certain people’s lives. In addition to feeling down most of the time, some good indicators are the following symptoms, especially if they have continued for a month or more:
- Agitation or irritability
- Eating more or less than usual
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Feeling withdrawn or unconnected
- Taking no pleasure in almost any activity
- Having a loss of energy or concentration
- Experiencing significant anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
A mother with postpartum depression should see her doctor immediately if her symptoms include:
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Being unable to care for herself or her baby
- Being afraid to be alone with her baby
- Having negative feelings towards her baby or even thinking about harming her child
- Worrying intensely about the baby or having little interest in the baby
In any event, if a new mother, or those around her, start to see lingering symptoms, such as the ones above, it is necessary for the new mother to seek a doctor’s care. Treating postpartum depression early can only make new motherhood more enjoyable.