Commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” postpartum depression is depression that occurs sometime after having a baby.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, nationally, one in nine women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Though it differs by age and race/ethnicity, estimates vary by state but can be as high as one in five women, the research showed.
Adam Cusner, LPCC, a psychotherapist in private practice, and Elisa Poggi, director of Insight Clinical Trials, both in Beachwood, said though common, postpartum depression symptoms can vary from case to case.
“Postpartum depression is a form of depression that takes place after childbirth, and sometimes not immediately after childbirth,” Cusner said. “Sometimes, it can happen after and up to 12 months later. What it could look like is also the standard symptoms of depression like lack of sleep, irritability and a variety of other symptoms.”
Poggi said symptoms can be a wide array of things.
“This can range from a little bit of sadness and crying bouts and can last a few days to a week or two,” she noted. “Other times, it can continue to last. This can be crying, tearfulness, inability to focus, increase/decrease in appetite and sleep, as well as confusion. A lot of moms feel that confusion, especially with the drastic change in schedule.”
She added a lot of people tend to put these emotional changes off and chalk it up to stress, but it is important to note how common the condition is.
“Postpartum can even happen to fathers, though not as frequently,” Poggi said. “These are normal symptoms to have, but again, it depends on how long the symptoms last and how severe they are if you need to seek help.”
The biggest thing in seeking help and getting better is to not suffer in silence, Poggi said.
“People need to be open about what they’re experiencing and to not isolate themselves,” she stated. “They need to enlist as much support as they can because it’s all a huge change. (Having a baby) is one of the biggest stressors in life.”
Cusner said depressive symptoms related to a new baby can happen to anyone in the family structure from fathers, to siblings and even pets.
“You’re also going to experience a variety of different changes in family structures and dynamics, which has a varied impact on parents,” he explained. “Assuming the child is healthy, there are still a lot of factors that go into having a child. It could be the family has gone through fertility treatments and the child is the culmination of that. They could be expecting to be overjoyed with the news, but they aren’t feeling like they expected. There are a lot of factors.”
Methods in preventing or catching these feelings early differ as much as the symptoms.
“Identifying good structures and making sure everyone in the family is prepared for the new child is a good place to start,” Cusner suggested. “The consequence of having a new sibling in the home can cause problems. Letting other family members know what’s going to happen in this situation can be a preparatory step. But if a mother or father starts to experience emotional changes, they should consult with their local mental health professional and explore the appropriate therapeutic measures.”
Poggi said it’s also important to realize there isn’t anything wrong with the person experiencing these feelings.
“It could be caused by hormones, stressors or even a family history of depression, but make sure you know it’s not your fault and you’re not doing anything wrong,” she said. “It’s a chemical imbalance. It can happen to any mother no matter who they are and how many kids they have. Every childbirth is different, so you can’t expect your body to always be the same after every birth. The more we’re open about mental health, the more people will seek help and know they aren’t alone.”