Postpartum Depression May Be More Common Than Thought
Mood swings, sudden crying spells, sadness. That may not be how you expected to feel after having a baby. Many women, though, find the few weeks following birth rife with emotions—otherwise known as the baby blues. For some, these feelings can plummet into postpartum depression (PDD), a condition that may be more common than previously thought.
Beyond a little blue
Aptly named, PDD is depression that affects a woman after she has a baby. Symptoms often emerge during the first few weeks. But a woman is vulnerable anytime within the first year after giving birth.
Unlike the baby blues, PDD lingers beyond several days. The symptoms are also more intense. They may include:
Experts say that one out of 10 women will get PDD. A recent study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests many more may actually be struggling with the condition. Researchers screened nearly 10,000 women for PDD four to six weeks after giving birth. They found that nearly one out of seven exhibited symptoms of the illness. Those most likely to suffer from it: younger women, African-Americans, and single moms.
Hormones a likely culprit
During pregnancy, a woman’s body goes through many changes. In particular, hormone levels climb. After birth, they quickly go back to normal levels. This natural fluctuation may be partly to blame for PDD. Experts have also linked PDD with thyroid problems.
All pregnant women are at risk for PDD. But you are more likely to develop it if you or someone in your family has had depression. Other potential causes: a lack of social support, negative feelings about pregnancy, high levels of stress, and marital or financial problems.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of PDD, seek help immediately. Left untreated, PDD can seriously harm a mother’s health. She may not eat well or lack the energy to care for her child. She may even start to think about hurting herself or her baby. Experts have also noted behavioral problems and developmental delays in infants whose mothers have PDD.
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