02 February 2018

Identifying Postpartum Depression – Am I at Risk?

Statistically, around 10% of new mothers suffer from postpartum depression (PPD) however, this percentage may be higher due to a lack of new moms reporting their case or even, identifying it.

One study, which looked at 10,000 mothers, found that 1 in 7 women were tested positive for postpartum depression and were likely to be single, younger, African American and less educated.

Discovering the risks for PPD, early on, and looking at the potential causes, can help with prevention, as well as getting the right medical attention, if necessary.

We know that social and relationship support during pregnancy and postpartum is vital for moms. Families and loved ones need to understand the mental health benefits that support has towards the mother.

While social support, alone, does not necessarily provide a risk factor for PPD, it is a topic that is being frequently researched and is not worth ignoring.



So, how can I tell whether I am suffering from postpartum depression?
Generally, PPD sufferers tend to be stressed, irritable and incredibly fatigued for long periods of time. They might struggle to carry out day-to-day tasks and find themselves to be highly emotional, whilst avoiding social activities and seeing family.

Sudden drops in progesterone and estrogen are typically linked to depression after pregnancy for those at risk.

It is important to note that postpartum depression is different to “Baby Blues,” since the latter will generally last around 10 – 12 days, depending entirely on the mother, and every woman is different.

The emotions experienced during PPD tend to be heightened and much more acute.

Ensure that you understand and are knowledgeable in postpartum depression and “Baby Blues” before giving birth, so that you are at least aware of the symptoms and what to expect.

Here is a helpful guide that will help you understand the symptoms, risks, and treatments for postpartum depression and other maternal mental disorders.

Feeling anxious and crying often is normal, however, do seek medical advice from your primary care giver if “Baby Blues” last more than 2 weeks or if you are experiencing abnormal thoughts towards your baby.

How do I know if I am at risk?
  • There are a number of possible risk factors. It is advisable to be aware of these potential risks, so that early intervention can be carried out, if needed:
  • A lack of social support, including, marital status, quality of relationships, support from family and friends and levels of social support, i.e. practical and emotional support, during pregnancy and after childbirth. 
  • Life changes, i.e. moving home, divorce, breakdown of relationship, are all considered to be social and psychological factors and can contribute to stress. 
  • A complicated pregnancy and/or birth can trigger PPD, since recent studies have shown that pain during labour is linked to the condition. 
  • Previous history of depression either during pregnancy or in the past. 
  • Childcare issues post pregnancy. Studies have been carried out to discover whether mothers who are overwhelmed with childcare or life in general are willing to ask for professional help. 
  • Unemployment. 
  • Unplanned pregnancy. A recent study published in BJOG: An international Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that women with unplanned pregnancies were up to 4 times more likely to suffer PPD a year after childbirth. 
  • Inadequate relationship with own mother. Early childhood traumas can be an unexpected risk factor for PPD in new moms, since this may complicate a woman’s ability and confidence to settle into the new ‘Mom’ role and to know how to provide the right care for her baby. 
  • History of sexual abuse. Research presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, discovered that women who had suffered from sexual abuse had a higher risk of developing PPD. 
  • Lower social class. 

Try to remember that not all of these factors will be a guaranteed lead to postpartum depression. For example, moving home or an unplanned pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean that mothers will develop PPD. This is simply a guide to see whether you are at a higher risk compared to mothers who have not experienced the above.

Always consult your Primary Care giver, in the first instance, if you feel you may be at risk or are suffering from PPD.

Conclusion:

Sadly, a large number of PPD cases remains unreported, as new mothers are simply unaware of their condition and continue to suffer needlessly for months, even years.

If you know someone who has just given birth and who may be at risk of postpartum depression, ensure that you listen and allow them to open up. Be present. Don’t overwhelm them, so give them some space and offer support as is needed.

Most importantly, do encourage them to seek medical advice and professional help, so that they may receive the proper guidance and treatment, as soon as possible.

Bringing a baby into the world is a magical time and all new mothers deserve to enjoy these precious moments with their newborn. By identifying the risk factors and seeking help when needed, we can significantly reduce the numbers of postpartum depression sufferers and fully appreciate the joy and wonders of motherhood.

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