Postpartum Depression (Underlying Symptoms, Management and Treatment)

Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are mental health disorders that develop after the birth of a baby. Although symptoms associated with these disorders are very common after childbirth – it’s a very emotionally and physically draining time, after all – but problems lie in these symptoms continuing for weeks or months, rather than days.

It is important to note that postpartum depression does not just occur immediately after delivering a baby. Instead, it can occur between one month and up to a year after a baby is born – it may even begin before the birth of the baby. The prevalence of postpartum depression is also higher than one might expect – just over 1 in 7 mothers suffer from this form of depression, which should only emphasise the importance of seeing a healthcare professional if symptoms persist.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include:

  • Believing yourself to be a substandard mother
  • Feeling sad or worthless for long periods of time
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Constant lethargy
  • Feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness
  • Strong feelings of anxiety or a desire to panic
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Becoming regularly distressed about the wellbeing of the baby

As with other forms of depression, symptoms are not necessarily consistent among sufferers, which makes it all the more important to see a healthcare professional if you’re suffering from any of these symptoms for several weeks after having delivered a baby.

Do you believe you’re suffering from postpartum depression?

It is imperative that a doctor or midwife is sought to diagnose and manage postpartum depression, the same way that any other kind of depression needs to be properly approached. It is only in this way that this disorder can be effectively treated, either with counselling and psychotherapy, or even group treatment with new mothers also suffering from depression, or with antidepressant medication.

If you’re still unsure, Beyond Blue provide the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to help you better understand your mental health situation. The EDPS is a mental health checklist that can help new mums determine whether they should pursue professional health. In the event that a score of 10 or higher is attained, make sure to arrange an appointment with a healthcare professional as soon as possible to have a more in-depth discussion about how you’re going.

Similar postpartum disorders

Postpartum depression isn’t the only mental disorder that can develop after giving birth. Postpartum anxiety and the very serious postpartum psychosis can also develop after delivering a child. Postpartum anxiety can share many of the symptoms associated with postpartum depression, and also symptoms such as panic attacks, persistent worry, and being on edge much of the time.

Postpartum psychosis is a potentially life-threatening mental health disorder that can have severe detrimental effects on mothers who do not seek appropriate help. Psychosis in this instance can involve hallucinations, delusions, mania, and many more extreme symptoms. Due to the often-extreme behaviours associated with these symptoms, the potential for mothers to harm themselves, their baby, or others around them is quite high, which should indicate the need to prioritise psychosis management.

Postpartum psychosis can be brought on by severe sleep deprivation and rapid hormonal changes that occur after childbirth, and it is more likely to occur in women who have previously experienced postpartum psychosis or have bipolar disorder. This form of psychosis is only experienced by one or two mothers in every 1000, and occurs soon after the birth of a child, unlike many instances of postpartum depression.

Get the help you deserve

There are a number of organisations in Australia that help mothers manage disorders such as postpartum depression, anxiety and psychosis, and can provide invaluable information and resources to ensure that you can manage your symptoms in the best way possible. These are beyondblue, PANDA and Pregnancy, Birth and Baby. They can be reached at the following phone numbers:

PANDA – 1300 726 306

beyondblue – 1300 224 636

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby – 1800 882 436

If you have any further questions, make sure to get in contact with Dr Tom Cade today.