mom suffering from postpartum depression

How Postpartum Depression Differs from Other Types of Depression

Many people refer to the weeks directly after giving birth as the “fourth trimester.” This term refers to the fact that new mothers often go through intense hormonal, physical, and emotional changes during this time, similar to the ways their bodies change during pregnancy. While some low moods, called “baby blues,” are normal during the postpartum period, some new mothers develop more debilitating emotions as a result of postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression looks like major depression in many ways. For example, patients with both types of depression may experience similar symptoms. However, postpartum depression presents a few important differences that new mothers and their loved ones should know.

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

Psychology professionals use the DSM-5 to determine if patients meet certain diagnostic criteria. According to the DSM-5, postpartum depression is not its own separate disorder. Instead, it’s a type of major depression that begins soon before or within a few weeks after giving birth. Although the DSM-5 officially states that postpartum depression begins within four weeks of birth, some professionals believe symptoms can start within six months.

Like with other types of major depression, postpartum depression symptoms must be severe enough to interrupt the person’s daily activities. The symptoms of postpartum depression vary among people. However, common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Consistently depressed mood
  • Mood swings with extreme lows
  • Overwhelming guilt or sadness
  • Crying spells with no obvious explanations
  • Irritability and uncontrolled anger
  • Obsessive thoughts about being good enough for the baby
  • Decreasing cognitive abilities, including memory, decision-making, and concentration
  • Emotional distance from friends and family
  • Difficulty bonding with the baby
  • Panic attacks
  • Invasive thoughts about hurting themselves or the baby
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you or someone you love has thoughts of suicide or hurting someone, seek emergency psychiatric help. You can call 9-1-1, go to the nearest emergency room, or contact a crisis helpline.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

Before parents can understand what can cause postpartum depression, they must know that one thing does not cause it: lack of love for the baby. People who experience postpartum depression love their children and want what is best for them.

There is no single cause of postpartum depression. Instead, it’s often several risk factors that come together to cause the symptoms. After all, bringing a new baby into the home is as stressful as it is joyful. Any of the following causes can lead to postpartum depression:

  • History of mental illness
  • Difficulty during delivery
  • Trouble breastfeeding
  • Adjusting to a new role as a parent
  • Financial difficulties
  • Hormonal changes
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Changes to the body

Postpartum Depression Treatment Options

Unfortunately, many parents with postpartum depression feel embarrassed about getting help. However, there should be no shame in seeking treatment for this disorder or any other. Although new parents tend to want to poor their energy into taking care of the baby, it’s important to take care of themselves as well. Postpartum depression treatments can help both the patient and her family, including the new baby.

Just as with other types of depression, the first-line treatment options for postpartum depression include talk therapy, medication, or both. A few antidepressants are not safe for breastfeeding mothers, so it’s important for patients to tell their doctors if they are breastfeeding. However, many patients respond well to safer medications.

If you or someone you love shows signs of postpartum depression, seek help as soon as possible. The compassionate therapists and psychiatrists at LifeStance Health know that having this disorder does not make someone a bad parent. In fact, seeking treatment is a sign of a caring parent. Contact us today and connect with professionals who can help.