The birth of a baby can generate a mix of strong emotions, from enthusiasm and joy to fear and worry. However, something that you might not expect may happen: depression.
In many cases, women who become mothers for the first time, experience postpartum melancholy, which can generally show changes in their mood, lapses of crying, anxiety and sleep problems. Postpartum melancholy can usually begin within the first two or three days after delivery, and may last up to two weeks.
Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after birth, but some may begin earlier, even during pregnancy, sometimes later (up to one year after birth).
Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression may include the following:
- Depressed mood or serious mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty to interact with your baby
- Isolate yourself from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
There is no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues can contribute.
Physical changes. After birth, a dramatic drop in hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) in the body can contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by the thyroid gland can also drop markedly, which can cause you to feel tired, lazy and depressed.
Emotional problems. When you are asleep and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You are probably anxious about your ability to provide care for your newborn.
It is important that you call your doctor as soon as possible if the signs and symptoms of depression have the following characteristics:
- They do not disappear after two weeks
- They get worse
- It is hard for you to take care of your baby
- It is hard for you to complete daily tasks
- You have thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
If you have a history of depression, check with your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant or as soon as you discover that you are pregnant.
During pregnancy, the doctor can monitor closely signs and symptoms of depression. He can make you a complete questionnaire to detect depression during pregnancy or after giving birth.
After your child is born, the doctor may recommend early postpartum checkups to detect signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. The faster it is detected, the faster the treatment can start.
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