Postpartum depression is an emotional reaction that may begin a few days or months after delivery and usually doesn’t last longer than two weeks. Mothers and fathers may feel irritable, anxious, tired and moody. It may be difficult to sleep for those with postpartum depression. Sometimes this depression develops into postpartum anxiety, which lasts longer and is characterized by intensified postpartum depression symptoms. If you don’t treat this depression it may harm the development of your baby. Parents with postpartum depression make less eye contact and smile less. This may affect the baby’s forming of attachment to the mother and father.
Up to 80% of the mothers experience feeling a bit depressed for a couple of weeks, the baby blues. They are moody, irritable, anxious, they cry a bit more and they might have sleeping problems. Usually these depressed feelings fade away with some rest and some help with the baby. However, if these feelings are still present after a few weeks, you might have postpartum depression. If left untreated, postpartum depression may interfere with mother-child bonding and can cause family problems. Children of mothers with untreated postpartum depression have a bigger chance of developing sleeping problems, behavioural problems (problems with feeding, being hyperactive and temper tantrums). Language development may be delayed as well. Postpartum depression may last a few weeks, but could easily last up to a year.
Between 4 and 25% of the fathers develop paternal postpartum depression in the first two months after delivery.* Hormonal changes (testosterone level, but also cortisol, estrogen and vasopressin) may be biological risk factors for developing postpartum depression. There is a bigger chance of developing postpartum depression if your partner has it too. Fathers with postpartum depression cause more marital problems and may also affect the development of the baby (and other children). They usually make less eye contact and smile less as fathers who are not depressed. The bigger the disengagement, the bigger the risk that the baby will have trouble forming close attachments. Babies and children may develop behavioural and emotional problems. Risk factors for fathers are: being a dad of twins, feeling depressed or anxious during pregnancy, having a baby with sleeping problems or having a baby who cries a lot. It is very important for fathers to be screened on postpartum depression and if needed treated.
*Between 4 and 25%: this huge difference is explained by the different questionnaires and others measuring tools used in various studies.
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At any moment during the first year after giving birth you might develop postnatal depression. Postnatal depression usually starts within the first two months after giving birth. Postpartum depression can also occur in women who suffered a miscarriage. In the beginning postpartum depression looks like the baby blues. But over time the signs and symptoms last longer and become more intense. This can result in experiencing difficulty to take care of your baby. The symptoms may include:
You are more at risk of developing postpartum depression if:
Please be aware that these risk factors do not cause postnatal depression but may contribute to its development. Some women develop postpartum depression without having any of the above mentioned risk factors, while others with several may not develop postpartum depression at all.
If you think you have postnatal depression then please make an appointment with your therapist or contact Barends Psychology Practice for online therapy so we can either treat you or guide you through this difficult time. Here are some other helpful tips:
– Robertson, E., Grace, S., Wallington, T., & Stewart, D. E., 2004. Antenatal risk factors for postpartum depression: a synthesis of recent literature. General Hospital Psych., 26, 289-295.
– Grace, S. L., Evindar, A., Stewart. D. E., 2003. The effect of postpartum depression on child cognitive development and behaviour: a review and critical analysis of the literature. Arch Womens Ment Health, 6, 263-274.