Greater than one in 10 women experience depression shortly after giving birth, says Marla Ahlgrimm. The “baby blues” are nothing to be ashamed of and, with treatment, will not impact a woman’s bond with her baby.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, depression is a collection of feelings – sadness, anxiety, emptiness – that interfere with daily life and can have real physical ramifications. Many women with depression may experience fatigue, insomnia, and memory impairment.
It is not uncommon to feel down and out within the first few days and weeks after having a baby. However, as Marla Ahlgrimm explains, when those feelings simply won’t go away, depression may be the culprit. A doctor can diagnose depression based on self-reported symptoms. These include:
- A sense of despair or hopelessness
- Uncontrollable crying
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Dietary changes
- Sleep pattern disruption
- A feeling of worthlessness
- Sudden disinterest in previously pleasurable activities
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unexplained persistent headaches and stomach problems
Marla Ahlgrimm notes that depression is not caused by a single factor, but rather results from a combination of issues. It is a mental illness common in women with a family history of depression. Stress, including that associated with having a new baby, often triggers depression. Women who suffer depression shortly after childbirth are said to have postpartum depression. Postpartum depression, explains Marla Ahlgrimm, may be triggered by a sudden change in estrogen and progesterone or a dip in thyroid hormones.
There are other factors that can play a role in postpartum depression: lack of sleep, being overwhelmed, doubts about mothering abilities, and trying to achieve unrealistic expectations of being the perfect parent can all contribute to these feelings of dejection.
Postpartum moms with symptoms of depression should contact their doctor if symptoms get worse or potentially put herself or the baby in harm’s way.