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Postpartum Depression: Removing the Stigma

Postpartum Depression: Removing the Stigma

Postpartum depression (PPD) is more common than most people would believe it to be. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 15% of births result in the mother developing PPD. Despite how often this type of depression occurs, it’s still met with a large amount of stigma. This is due to many reasons. One is a lack of education about the subject, especially for expecting parents. Another is that people don’t like to talk about it as if PPD is a personal failure. Shame and fear play a substantial factor as well.

What Does Postpartum Depression Look Like?

PPD develops after a baby is born. Sometimes a new mother will experience a period of anxiety or sadness following birth is known as “baby blues” for up to two weeks afterward. PPD is not baby blues; it is a persistent and more severe form of depression that can last to up to a year after giving birth.

Sometimes a woman can develop peripartum depression, which begins during pregnancy and lasts after birth. Someone can also develop postpartum psychosis, which is more serious and can be life-threatening to both parent and baby.

PPD and the people that experience it deserve to have their struggles acknowledged and treated with compassion. People with PPD are worthy of receiving treatment and care for their conditions. The only way to combat PPD is to change how our society views and treats mental health disorders. To do that, we must educate others on what it is, how to recognize it, and how it can be treated.

Why Do Some People Develop Postpartum Depression?

Any parent, regardless of culture, religion, or race, can develop PPD. It is a universal problem that affects parents all over the globe. Men also can develop PPD, but it is harder to spot than women. This is blamed on the general stigma of men discussing feelings and their mental health. As a result, it’s difficult to know for sure just how many men struggle with PPD compared to women.

Risk Factors

There is currently no known singular biological factor or trigger that causes PPD. A mother goes through intense physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. After birth, some hormone levels drop very fast, which may cause a sudden drop in mood that can lead to depression.

Some also believe that the thyroid plays a role in the development of PPD. The thyroid regulates how your body uses and stores the energy it gets from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can also cause symptoms of depression.

Some emotional factors may play a role as well. Many new parents struggle with broken sleep patterns. They may be overwhelmed not only by caring for a new baby but wondering if they can be a good parent. Many have their whole routines upended and struggle to make their lives fit around the baby. Some may even grieve the lives they had before the baby, which are now forever changed.

However, some parents are part of groups that have a higher risk of developing PPD. These risk groups include:

  • Those experiencing a traumatic or medically complicated birth
  • Pregnancies that come with mixed emotional feelings, planned or not
  • Abusing substances, such as alcohol or drugs
  • Having a highly stressful life or experiencing traumatic events during pregnancy or shortly after birth
  • Giving birth prematurely or having a baby with medical issues
  • Having little or no emotional support during or after the pregnancy

Remember, developing PPD is not because of a personal failure or slight. It is a complication of giving birth and should be treated like any other medical issue.

How to Recognize the Symptoms of PPD

PPD is a form of depression, meaning it shares many of its symptoms. The biggest sign of depression, in general, is when any of these feelings or symptoms persists past a few weeks or gets progressively worse. PPD is different in that this type of depression prevents someone from caring for and bonding with a newborn baby the way they want to. If at any point you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms while caring for a newborn, it’s time to get help.

Common signs of PPD include:

  • Intense mood swings, such as sudden anger, irritability, uncontrollable crying, and restlessness
  • Feelings of anxiety that may progress into panic attacks
  • Lack of sleep or too much sleep
  • Feeling overwhelmingly numb and tired
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, death, and suicide
  • Fear and hopelessness over your worth as a parent
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Loss or overabundance of appetite
  • Overwhelming negative feelings, such as worthlessness or shame
  • Having trouble bonding with your baby
  • Loss of interest in things you loved and enjoyed
  • Feeling like there is a fog in your head preventing you from concentrating or thinking clearly

How Postpartum Depression Is Treated

PPD is best treated right away. The first step after noticing symptoms is to reach out for help. Start by calling your local mental health treatment center for information on how to proceed. If you are in crisis and feel as though you may hurt yourself, your partner, or your baby, call 911 right away for immediate help. You can also call 988, which is the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. They can also help you find mental health resources.

Treatment for PPD is the same for men and women. The client undergoes a form of therapy, usually psychotherapy, to help them work through their depression. Sometimes clients are prescribed medications, such as antidepressants. Treatment times vary, but treatments are always tailored to each specific client. It is critical to stick with your treatment plan and take the medications prescribed to you. Additionally, make sure you give your therapist feedback, as they will use that to help them treat you.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a severe form of depression that affects many parents. Both men and women can become affected by it. PPD is treatable, and those that struggle with it can recover from it. However, it’s vital to reach out for help right away if you suspect you have PPD. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we understand the struggle you are going through and want to help. It’s not your fault that you feel this way, and you are not a weak or bad person because of it. If you or someone you love is struggling with PPD, call (949) 647-4090 today to speak with our mental health professionals.


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