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Jess had always dreamed of being a mother. When she gave birth to her first child, she felt a profound sense of love, joy and fulfillment. Her lifelong dream had finally come true!

Just a few weeks later, however, Jess struggled with a deep sadness she couldn’t shake. Her joy had been replaced by despair. Instead of closeness, she felt detached from her baby. She found herself crying uncontrollably, overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and worthlessness. Even simple tasks like feeding the baby and changing diapers seemed impossibly overwhelming.

new mother with postpartum depressionJess’s baby was born in February. Three months later, when her husband presented her with her first Mother’s Day card and gift, Jess lashed out at him, causing them both to feel pain and resentment. This was anything but the picture-perfect dream of motherhood Jess had always imagined. Without warning, postpartum depression had turned her world upside down.

While Mother’s Day is intended to celebrate and honor mothers, it can be a particularly difficult day for women dealing with postpartum depression. Mother’s Day often carries with it an implied societal expectation of happy motherhood. But for women dealing with postpartum depression, Mother’s Day may bring with it a range of conflicting emotions, not all of them positive. They may feel grateful for their child but also overwhelmed, exhausted, and disconnected. This conflicting mix of emotions can even induce additional shame at not feeling the expected joy and happiness on this day.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

The exact causes of postpartum depression are not fully understood. However, hormonal fluctuations, changes in brain chemistry, and sleep deprivation are believed to contribute to its development. Other potential risk factors include a history of depression, stressful life events, lack of social support, and difficulties in the transition to motherhood.

After childbirth, there is a rapid drop in hormone levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal fluctuations may play a role in triggering postpartum depression. Some women may also have a biological predisposition to developing depression, including a family history of depression or a previous episode of depression. (Source)

Environmental factors may also play a role, such as any additional life stressors occurring at the same time (death in the family, job loss, financial challenges, moving, etc.). A lack of social support may also contribute to postpartum depression. Women who feel isolated, do not have adequate support systems, or lack help in caring for the baby may be at higher risk for developing postpartum depression.

When Does Postpartum Depression Start?

Postpartum depression is a complex condition, and its onset and duration are highly variable. Generally speaking, most women who develop postpartum depression will begin to experience symptoms within a few weeks after giving birth.

However, postpartum depression can also develop several months after delivery. This delayed onset can manifest at six months or even up to a year after delivery. Even if several months have passed since delivery, postpartum depression could still be the culprit for a mother experiencing depression, as it can occur at any point during the first year after childbirth.

How Long Does Postpartum Depression Last?

Just like the onset of postpartum depression, the duration of postpartum depression is variable from person to person. Some women may experience postpartum depression for a few weeks or months, while others may struggle with it for a year or longer. Generally, postpartum depression lasts for several months, but there is a high amount of variability in how long it lasts. Women should not feel ashamed or feel like there is something wrong with them if postpartum depression lasts longer than the expected timeframe.

Postpartum depression is classified into three categories based on duration of symptoms. Acute postpartum depression has the shortest duration and typically lasts for a few weeks to a few months. Persistent postpartum depression refers to symptoms that last for more than a few months. It may continue for six months or even up to a year if left untreated. Chronic postpartum depression refers to symptoms that last for an extended period, typically beyond one year.

Who is at Risk for Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression can affect any new mother. While no one is free from the risk of developing postpartum depression, certain factors can increase the likelihood of developing postpartum depression. These risk factors include:

  • Having a history of postpartum depression with a previous birth. Women who have already experienced postpartum depression are two to three times more likely to experience it again with a subsequent birth. (Source)
  • A family history of depression. Women with depression in their family history, especially those with depression in parents or siblings, have an increased risk of developing postpartum depression.
  • Other mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issues increase the risk for developing postpartum depression as well.
  • Significant life stressors. Stressful life events such as financial difficulties, relationship problems, lack of social support, or recent major life changes can be a contributing factor. Being a new mother is already a stressful endeavor; having other major stressors at the same time increases the risk of developing postpartum depression.
  • Having a difficult childbirth. Women who had a complicated or traumatic childbirth, such as experiencing medical complications, emergency interventions, or a prolonged labor, have a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
  • Having difficulties breastfeeding. Breastfeeding does not cause postpartum depression, but women who have trouble breastfeeding are at a higher risk for postpartum depression. The stress and feelings of inadequacy from breastfeeding difficulties can contribute to the development of depression.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

Fortunately, postpartum depression is treatable. There are many effective treatment options available. Recognizing when you are dealing with postpartum depression is the first step. The next step is to seek help from a psychiatrist or other qualified mental health professional.

Fortunately, Jess, the new mother, sought help for her postpartum depression. With treatment, she was able to fully recover, develop a strong bond with her baby, and improve the relationship with her husband.

Utah mothers looking for help with postpartum depression are encouraged to call Ampelis Health. Ampelis specializes in treatment for postpartum depression and offers several different treatment options, including medication, therapy, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, and TMS.

If you suspect that you are experiencing postpartum depression, or are concerned about a wife, partner, or loved one who may be struggling, call Ampelis Health today at 435-776-5909.

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