What Is Postpartum Depression?

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


We’ve previously discussed how pregnancy affects your mental health . In this blog, we will shed some light on postpartum depression, its symptoms and options for treatment.  

What is postpartum depression? Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a severe, long-lasting form of depression typically experienced by new mothers. This condition can start as early as a few months before giving birth and up to a year after giving birth.  

Postpartum Depression Symptoms 

It is fairly common for new mothers to experience what is known as the baby blues shortly after giving birth. Hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and the stress of having a newborn can cause symptoms like crying, insomnia, anxiety, mood swings, irritability, and trouble eating. These are common symptoms that typically only last up to a few weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression, on the other hand, is a bit more severe and may require treatment to achieve relief.  

Symptoms of Postpartum depression  include:  

  • Intense mood swings  
  • Crying a lot for no reason 
  • Trouble bonding with your baby 
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends 
  • Loss of appetite  
  • Overeating 
  • Insomnia  
  • Fatigue  
  • Lack of interest and pleasure in things you used to enjoy 
  • Intense irritability, anger, and rage 
  • Fear that you’re not a good parent 
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, or inadequacy  
  • Inability to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions  
  • Restlessness 
  • Anxiety and panic attacks  
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself and/or your baby  
  • Thoughts of death or suicide  

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you are not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), one out of every nine women in the United States experiences postpartum depression. The earlier you seek help, the better to gain control of your symptoms and feel better during this very special and challenging time. Schedule an appointment with your doctor for a postpartum depression screening and to discuss your treatment options.  

Postpartum Depression in Men  

Although postpartum depression is commonly associated with women, fathers can also experience depression after the birth of their child. Just like postpartum depression in women, postpartum depression in men is likely associated with the stress of becoming a new parent, the lack of sleep, the fear of being a bad parent, and other worries.  

A study at Northwestern University with over 10,000 participants showed a 68% increase  in depression symptoms among fathers during the first five years of their child’s life. Postpartum depression in men is very real, so if you are a new father who is experiencing symptoms of depression, you are not alone, and you have a variety of treatment options.  

Postpartum Depression in Non-biological Parents  

Additional studies and research show  that postpartum, or early parenthood, depression occurs in all kinds of parents, including adoptive parents, gay and straight, as well as biological parents. So if you are an adoptive parent, remember that you too can experience symptoms of postpartum depression and that you have options to help you get through it.  

Postpartum Depression Treatment 

Postpartum depression, like major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and other forms of depression, is commonly treated with medication. With many different types and classes of antidepressants available, your psychiatrist will likely recommend one that will best fit your symptoms and situation. There are even medications that can be taken while breastfeeding that won’t affect the baby.  

However, antidepressants can cause a number of side effects and can take up to six weeks to provide noticeable relief from symptoms. For quicker relief, some doctors prescribe ketamine as a treatment for depression. Ketamine is administered in a very low dose through an IV, and most patients start to feel relief within hours after the first treatment.  

Ketamine has no known long-term systemic side effects, leaves the system quickly, and is not transferred to the baby through breastmilk, so mothers who are nursing could benefit from this treatment. However, if you are wary of medications, there are alternatives available.  

Alternative Treatment Options 

If you aren’t comfortable taking any kind of drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS)  is a great alternative to medication. TMS uses a magnet, similar to an MRI magnet, to stimulate areas deep within the brain that are affected by depression. TMS is completely noninvasive and causes very few side effects. Studies show that after 30 TMS sessions, more than half  of patients achieve remission from their depression.  

Professional counseling is another effective treatment for postpartum depression, especially when used along with TMS or a medication. There are many counselors who specialize in postpartum depression. A therapist will help you develop coping skills to deal with the negative feelings that the postpartum depression may be causing. A therapist can also help you challenge your fears and negative thoughts through various methods.  

If you are a new parent who is experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, you have many options available to help you take back your life. Schedule an appointment  for a postpartum depression screening at Serenity Mental Health Centers and to discuss your treatment options.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.