(formerly postpartum depression)
Peripartum depression takes the joy out of new parenthood. It’s real, it’s tough, and we can help.
What is Peripartum Depression?
Peripartum depression has the same features of major depressive disorder except that the onset is during pregnancy or within several weeks following delivery.
Peripartum depression is a serious illness in which a person feels sad, down or less interested in activities most of the time for two weeks or longer. Peripartum depression affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves and can make it very difficult to engage with others and take care of daily responsibilities. Life may feel overwhelming, exhausting, and painful. As debilitating as peripartum depression can be, it also is highly treatable.
Symptoms of Peripartum Depression
Symptoms vary from mild to severe and may include:
- Feeling sad, empty, tearful or hopeless
- Feeling irritable, angry or easily frustrated, in a bad mood*
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
- Trouble bonding with the new baby*
- Appetite or weight changes**
- Sleeping too little or too much**
- Fidgeting, pacing or seeming very slowed down (as if in slow motion)
- Low energy or fatigue**
- Body aches, weakness, and other physical symptoms*
- Feeling worthless or excessively guilty, focusing on past failures
- Trouble concentrating or making simple decisions, forgetfulness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
*Not in the diagnostic criteria for adults but commonly experienced
**Above and beyond what seems normative during pregnancy or when nursing or caring for a newborn
What Causes Peripartum Depression?
While the exact causes of peripartum depression are unknown, it may result from the interaction of biological, psychological and social factors.
- Differences in brain chemistry, hormones and genes may make some people more vulnerable to peripartum depression, especially when faced with stressful life events or circumstances.
- Psychological factors such as patterns of thinking, coping skills and emotional intelligence also may influence a person’s likelihood of developing peripartum depression.
- Fluctuating hormone levels during and after pregnancy, feeling sleep deprived and adjusting to the demands of caring for an infant also can contribute to depression.
Fortunately, treatment can help no matter the cause.
Treatment for Peripartum Depression
A person can’t just “snap out of” depression; it’s an illness that often requires professional treatment. Treatment options for peripartum depression include:
- Individual therapy – Psychotherapists use a variety of techniques to help people recover from mental illness, resolve personal issues and make beneficial changes in their lives.
- Medication – There are a variety of antidepressants that may be used while pregnant or nursing.
- TMS – Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a non-invasive treatment that uses electromagnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.
- Group therapy – Participants are encouraged and supported by a therapist and peers in a group setting.
- Lifestyle changes – Regular exercise, adequate sleep, relaxation practices and supportive relationships can improve peripartum depression symptoms and make future episodes of depression less likely.
Why Seek Help for Peripartum Depression?
Untreated peripartum depression can interfere with parent-child bonding, cause family problems, and increase risk of future depressive episodes. Children of parents who have untreated postpartum depression may be more likely to have sleeping and eating difficulties and delays in language development.
If you suspect that you or someone you love suffers from peripartum depression, contact Athena Care today.
One of our friendly associates will help you get the help you need. Take this first step to feel better and take control.