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Seeking Help for Postpartum Depression

Despite popular belief, postpartum depression and the "baby blues" are not one and the same. While many women have mood swings and feel sad or overwhelmed after giving birth, postpartum depression is more severe and can last for months or longer.

The cause for postpartum depression is unknown. Changes in hormone levels during and after pregnancy may account for some factors of postpartum depression. Other causes may include changes in sleep habits, work and social relationships and body image.

Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression

Although nothing can predict with 100% certainty that you will have postpartum depression, there are risk factors. For instance, if you have diabetes, you may be at risk for depression during or after pregnancy. In a recent study, women who had any form of diabetes, including gestational diabetes, were at greater risk for depression.

They were about twice as likely as those without the condition to experience depression during pregnancy or up to one year after giving birth. Other risk factors for postpartum depression include:

  • Having problems in your relationship with your significant other
  • Experiencing financial distress (such as poverty, job loss or lack of insurance)
  • Having a history of depression
  • Having had postpartum depression in the past
  • Experiencing a recent traumatic or stressful event (a breakup, a loved one's death or job loss, for instance)

Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

If you're experiencing postpartum depression, these symptoms typically last all day – every day – for two weeks or longer.

  • Crying often
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Sleeping too much or having problems sleeping
  • Feeling very tired all the time
  • Having little to no appetite
  • Feeling guilty or helpless
  • Feeling anxious
  • Thinking about death or suicide

You may also have negative feelings toward your new baby or be afraid of being alone with him/her. In some cases, you may be unable to care for yourself or the child.

New Dads Get Depressed, Too

Not only women experience postpartum depression. A new research review found that about one in 10 men suffers from prenatal or postpartum depression.

Dads seemed most at risk three to six months after a new baby's birth. They were more often depressed if mothers were, too.

Depressed men may cope by using drugs and alcohol, working more, or becoming angry. Look for these and other signs like irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities.

Find Help

Postpartum depression is highly treatable. If you or a loved one is showing signs of postpartum depression, talk with a doctor. Getting help is good for mother, father and child.

Sources: U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health, Krames Staywell, Mayo Clinic

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