Women’s Health: How Common Is Postpartum Depression, How Can I Recognize It, And How Do I Find Help?

Unfortunately, postpartum depression is very common among women in the United States as well as other countries, and many women are afraid to discuss it. However, the stigma associated with this disorder is beginning to minimize, and more women are discussing it as well as getting help. You can too.

How Common Is Postpartum Depression?

The baby blues are a common experience among many women who have just given birth. They can feel happy one moment and then weepy, lonely, or anxious the next. Many of these feelings are associated with the lack of sleep that women get after giving birth or with the stress of caring for a new infant. However, some individuals experience a more serious issue.

According to the American Psychological Association, 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression, which is much worse than the baby blues. When this disorder occurs, women need help in order to navigate the issue of postpartum depression, and in most cases, professional treatment is necessary.

Recognizing Postpartum Depression

For someone who has never experienced depression before, distinguishing this disorder from the regular feelings of sadness or anxiety after having a baby can be difficult. But according to the National Library of Medicine, the symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe than the baby blues. In addition, some women are more likely to experience postpartum depression than others, including

  • Women who have experienced postpartum depression or another type of depressive syndrome before
  • Women who have a history of depression in their family
  • Women who experienced a stressful life event during their pregnancy or a complication during their delivery or pregnancy
  • Women with a lack of social support from their loved ones
  • Women with substance abuse histories

The National Institute of Mental Health lists the general symptoms of postpartum depression, which can include

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, or being overwhelmed
  • Crying often and/or for an unknown reason
  • Becoming very anxious or worried
  • Becoming angry or enraged for no apparent reason
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or restless often
  • Experiencing changes in sleep pattern, including sleeping too much or not being able to sleep at all
  • Experiencing changes in eating habits such as eating too much or not enough
  • Having trouble with cognitive functions like making decisions, focusing, or remembering things
  • Losing interest in activities one used to enjoy
  • Experiencing physical aches and pains like headaches or muscle pain
  • Withdrawing from family members, friends, and other loved ones
  • Having trouble forming an emotional bond with the baby
  • Not feeling able or equipped to care for one’s own baby
  • Experiencing thoughts about harming one’s self or the baby

As you can see, most of these symptoms go far beyond those of the generally experienced, weepy feelings often associated with post-pregnancy. The fact that some mothers who are suffering from postpartum depression consider hurting themselves or their children should remind you that this disorder is serious and that help is necessary.

How Do I Get Help for Postpartum Depression?

If you are still unsure if what you are experiencing is, in fact, postpartum depression, it is still important to seek help. You would rather be safe and realize what you’re dealing with is nothing more than temporary feelings of sadness that are common after having a baby. However, if you are certain what you’re feeling is postpartum depression, it is necessary to seek help immediately.

You can find treatment through your insurance company or through many of the free and low-cost services that exist all over the country. It is very important that you speak with a doctor about your experiences and that you are able to receive the necessary treatment that will allow you to recover safely.

The two most commonly used treatment options are medication and counseling. Often when these two options are used together, they provide the best result. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) are the counseling approaches most often used to treat postpartum depression, and antidepressants can be effective as well. When these two treatments are utilized as part of a larger recovery program, patients are often able to recover from their feelings of sadness and anxiety and return to a healthier, happier state.