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Recent CDC research shows that about one in eight women in the US experience symptoms of postnatal depression (PND). It's important that parents are aware of the signs and symptoms, and that they know when and how to seek help if it's needed.
In this guide, we'll cover what postnatal depression is, what symptoms you should look out for, and how it can be treated.
Postnatal depression (also referred to as postpartum depression) is a common form of depression that occurs after a person has had a baby. It's different from the post-birth 'baby blues' that people talk about.
It can develop suddenly, or gradually over time, which can make it tricky to identify. It varies and can be mild to very severe.
Many people are so wrapped up in caring for their newborn that they don't stop to check in with themselves, so understanding postnatal depression is an important step in being able to take the best care of yourself and your baby.
Unfortunately, it's estimated that nearly 50% of moms with postpartum depression go undiagnosed. This is often because people either don't recognize that they have it, or they overlook their symptoms because they're worried about judgment from others.
It's important to know that PND is common, and you'll never be judged for speaking out about how you're feeling. Being aware of and spreading knowledge about the symptoms of postnatal depression is an important step in reducing the stigma around it and helping more parents get the support they deserve.
Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:
If you have thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or your baby, you should seek help from your doctor right away.
The truth is, there's no clear cause for postnatal depression, but there are some factors that can make it more likely that you'll experience postnatal depression. These include:
Having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression, even if none of the above points apply to you.
It can be a really difficult time, but it's important to remember that there's always support available if you or someone you know is dealing with postnatal depression.
Your family doctor can be a great first point of contact when it comes to getting support, and the following US-based charities are dedicated to supporting the mental well-being of parents.
Although experiencing postnatal depression can be isolating and distressing, there are numerous treatments available, and with the right support, people can and do recover. Recovery is often gradual and can take time, but 80% of women with postpartum depression will achieve a full recovery.
Which treatment is right for you can depend on several factors and your healthcare providers can help guide your recovery journey.
Many people recover from postnatal depression with the help of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, or other mental health professionals, and talking therapy like interpersonal therapy (IPT) or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you to reframe your thinking and change your thoughts to help improve your other symptoms in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
You may be prescribed antidepressants if your depression is more severe, and your symptoms haven't improved with other treatments. There are several types of antidepressants. Your doctor will be able to advise you which one is best for you, particularly if you're breastfeeding.
You should always speak to a healthcare provider if you're feeling depressed, but sometimes self-help techniques can work well alongside other treatment methods.
Things like talking to your family and friends, asking for more help with your baby, making time for yourself to do the things you enjoy, eating healthily, and exercising regularly can help boost your mood and lighten the load of new parenthood.
Because every situation is unique, there's no definitive timeline for how long postnatal depression lasts. It can start anytime within a year of a baby's birth (usually within the first six weeks after birth) and can last months or go on for more than a year in some cases.
Postnatal depression is different from the 'baby blues' in that it can last for an extended period if not treated. In the minority of cases, it can develop into a more serious issue that requires a long-term treatment plan.
You should speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you think you may be depressed. Signs of depression include:
Yes, postnatal depression is thought to affect eight to 10% of dads, and studies show that around 50% of men who have partners diagnosed with postpartum depression go on to develop depression themselves.
Sleep deprivation, changes in routine, financial pressures, changes in relationship dynamics, and their partner dealing with depression can all play a part in causing this. Some men find it harder to seek support, but it's so important for dads to tell their doctor and those close to them if they're feeling anxious or depressed.
If you're concerned that someone you love is suffering from PND, you should encourage them to speak to their doctor as soon as possible. Remember to listen to them, be patient, and make sure they're able to rest. Helping to care for their baby and doing chores around the house will help them feel supported if they are struggling.
If this content reminds you of your own experiences or makes you think of someone you know and you feel concerned or uncomfortable, please head to the PSI website for information about perinatal mental health resources that may be able to help.
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