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The birth of a child can inspire an array of emotions; excitement, anxiety, happiness, fear and other such powerful feelings. Sometimes, the birth of a child can also trigger unexpected feelings and reactions, like depression.
As many as 70-80% of women experience, at a minimum, the “baby blues” post-delivery. 10-20% of these women will develop a more severe, longer-lasting type of clinical postpartum depression. A staggering 1 in 7 new mothers experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth.
Though these numbers only consider live births, many women who miscarry or have stillbirths experience symptoms of postpartum depression as well. Unfortunately, the numbers are thought to be much higher than is reported, diagnosed and documented.
Postpartum depression is a form of severe depression that begins shortly after childbirth. Often mistaken for the baby blues, the two are distinct and should not be conflated. While the baby blues may last a few days or one or two weeks post-childbirth, postpartum depression is more intense and lasts longer and may even begin to affect the ability to care for and bond with the child and the performance of other everyday activities. The difference between the baby blues and PPD is in the severity and length of the symptoms.
Some symptoms of the baby blues include anxiety, mood swings, irritability, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, decreased appetite and difficulty concentrating while symptoms of postpartum depression include severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby, detachment, intense irritability and anger, doubt in your abilities as a mother, restlessness, severe anxiety and panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, overwhelming fatigue, feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy, loss of appetite or excessive eating, insomnia or excessive sleeping etc.
Postpartum psychosis, a more severe form of postpartum depression, affects about 1 in 1000 women. Symptoms include a desire to harm yourself and your baby, obsessive thoughts, hallucination, delusion, paranoia, disorientation etc.
PPD can also affect new fathers and adoptive parents. They may experience ennui as well as the symptoms the person who birthed the child experiences.
If what first appeared to be baby blues persist after the first few weeks post-birth, you must seek professional medical help, especially if you feel like you might harm yourself or your baby. PPD is not a personal failing and, with appropriate help the new mother will be okay in no time.