Going through pregnancy and childbirth is hard enough, add on some postpartum depression risk factors and you have the perfect combination for postpartum depression. Are you at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression?
Through years of study, some key postpartum depression risk factors have been found. These things increase the chance for a woman to develop postpartum depression.
Now you must be aware that having one of these factors does not necessarily mean you will get postpartum depression, but multiple put together puts you at a higher risk. So, the more of these postpartum risk factors you have, the more likely you will develop postpartum depression.
This post is here for you to be aware of this, so in case you do develop postpartum depression you can recognize it and get the necessary help.
Let’s dive right in!
What is Postpartum Depression?
First, we need to understand what postpartum depression exactly is as there is a big misconception going around about postpartum depression. The medical definition for postpartum depression is “a mood disorder that begins after childbirth and usually lasts beyond six weeks.” But it is so much more than that.
Postpartum depression starts after childbirth and consists of strong and prolonged feelings of sadness and can affect either sex.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Feeling sad
- Intense mood swings
- Crying lots
- Difficulty feeling connected to baby and family
- Loss of appetite, or sudden increase in appetite
- Insomnia or prolonged sleeping
- Intense feelings of fatigue
- Anxiety about yourself and your baby
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feeling worthless, guilty
- No more pleasure in activities
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, includes thoughts of death or suicide
These symptoms are just a general list. Having postpartum depression does not mean you have ALL these symptoms; you may have some and some you have never experienced.
If you feel any of these symptoms, however, and they only last a few days to a few weeks you may be experiencing baby blues which is very common in mothers. If these symptoms last longer than a few weeks and interfere with your ability to care for your baby and do your normal everyday tasks, you need to get help with postpartum depression.
So, what puts women at a higher risk for postpartum depression?
One of the biggest causes of postpartum depression is recurring depression in individuals who have experienced it before. This causes them to be more vulnerable to feelings of depression than others.
So, if you have experienced some form of depression in the past, your chance of getting postpartum depression is so much higher than normal.
Often, the birthing process does not go to plan and mothers are left traumatized, stress, and dealing with a whole lot of negative emotions. Feeling negatively about your birthing experience (whether it was the staff, procedures, or traumatizing experiences) can create the perfect path for postpartum depression.
Also, your first few days postpartum can have a huge impact. Learning about a health condition, or even having your baby in NICU for a while can lead to increased rates of postpartum depression.
Although not as common, biological factors are another postpartum depression risk factor. This is because of physical deficiencies that may arise during pregnancy or after childbirth. These changes may bring mood swings and emotional changes.
During pregnancy, the levels of estrogen and progesterone are very high. After delivery these hormone levels don’t just drop, they plumet. The hormone Lactin increases in the body to produce milk, and thyroid levels also drop suddenly. These sudden and drastic changes can be a trigger for postpartum depression as the body is missing those natural anti-depressant hormones.
A mother’s hormones already plumet after childbirth, add on stress, trauma, or even pain from a surgery and a woman is at greater risk. Labor and delivery sure aren’t easy, and the body may take anywhere from a few weeks to months to heal, accepting this and being easy on themselves is hard for many women.
Take it from me, even though my second birth was much smoother and faster than my first birthing experience, the recovery was so much harder. I hemorrhaged, leaving me weak, exhausted, and iron deficient for weeks!
Changes in Lifestyle
Giving birth to a child and then having this human be dependent on you 24/7 is a humongous task and can be extremely overwhelming!
Lack of sleep will be normal, as so much of your day will go into taking care of your newborn baby. Time usually spent relaxing and enjoying yourself will be replaced by hours of caring for a new baby. But don’t let this scare you, motherhood is more than worth it!
Stress of trying to manage everything and coping with these changes can trigger postpartum depression. Some women also feel overwhelmed about caring for their new baby, leading to doubts of their ability to parent, and ultimately to anxiety.
This huge change in lifestyle is very overwhelming, especially if you are a creature of habit and routines. This change can trigger postpartum depression and is one of the biggest postpartum risk factors.
Through having a baby, your priorities shift as your biggest concern is taking care of your newborn. This can cause your relationships and social interactions to suffer, maybe even losing connection with some loved ones.
This change and lack of time can cause family members, friends, and even your spouse to distance themselves (often not purposefully) and lose that connection to you. In case you are experiencing this or are scared of experiencing this, here is a blog post about baby proofing your marriage.
Seeing others drift away from you and you being unable to stop it can cause postpartum depression in some women.
Your genes may also be another one of the postpartum depression risk factors, as research suggests that some people are genetically more prone to depression. This is because the part of their brain that controls your mood can be more sensitive to the dropping of hormones.
In general, here is a quick list that outline all the postpartum risk factors:
- History of depression
- Traumatizing birth
- Prolonged and hard recovery
- Lack of sleep
- Body changes
- Increased stress
- Lack of support
- Losing relationships
- Baby is preterm
- Younger than 20
- History of drug or alcohol abuse
I Think I Have Postpartum Depression, What do I do?
Firstly, it is important to understand the difference between postpartum depression and baby blues. Baby blues will bring on many similar symptoms to postpartum depression and are much more common than clinical postpartum depression.
The major difference is that baby blues are short term. They usually come shortly after birth (within the first few days) and last for a week or two.
If your symptoms last longer than 2 weeks, you most likely have postpartum depression.
If you suspect you have postpartum depression, your symptoms have been persistent for over 2 weeks and are so intense you are unable to care for yourself or for you baby, you need to get help.
You can reach out to a doctor for some medication, counselling, therapy, or even a support group.
If you are having suicidal thought of harming yourself or your baby, please reach out for help right away. You can call:
- A family member, close friend, or someone you trust.
- Your doctor
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
For Those Going Through Postpartum Depression
I want you to know there is a way out, this doesn’t have to be this way for the rest of your life. At the end of this dark tunnel is light, and with the right treatment, help, and support, you will get through this.
You are doing a good job, just keep going. If you are unsure of what to do, feel free to reach out to me. I have gone through this and know how hard it is. We can talk and you can get the help you deserve and long for.
Until next time,