Dealing With Postpartum Depression
By Paul Rothbart
Depression is all too common and comes in many forms. Even people who seemingly have great lives with plenty of reasons to be happy can be depressed. An event as happy as the birth of a child can still be followed by a bout of this debilitating condition. It's called postpartum depression and it affects many new parents. Although generally associated with mothers, fathers can experience it too. Along with the joy of a baby come huge responsibilities. Recognizing the symptoms of postpartum depression and dealing with it can be tricky.
The symptoms are similar to other forms of depression. A mother may find herself feeling sad and irritable while experiencing extreme mood swings. Crying jags are common as is withdrawing from family and friends. A mother may feel like a bad parent and utterly hopeless. In the worst cases, harming oneself or one's baby may be contemplated. Symptoms that last more than two weeks should be addressed.
Postpartum depression is caused by both physical and emotional factors. Pregnancy and giving birth put a woman's body through a rollercoaster ride of hormonal changes. The hormone production of the thyroid gland may diminish and levels of estrogen and progesterone may drop. This can cause fatigue and lethargy as well as contribute to depression. Having a baby to care for can trigger extreme emotions. The new mother may feel inadequate and overwhelmed. She may be getting too little sleep and feel that she is no longer attractive. All of these emotions can cause depression.
Although they don't experience the hormonal changes that the mother does, new fathers may also feel overwhelmed by the prospect of raising and caring for a child. There may be worries about earning a good enough living to provide financial support. A father may also feel anxiety about the mother feeling depressed. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Postpartum depression in men should be taken just as seriously as it is in women.
Depending upon the factors that are causing it, there is more than one way to treat postpartum depression. Medication will be prescribed if an underactive thyroid is a part of the problem. Psychotherapy is generally a major part of treatment. Just as will any other form of depression, sessions with a therapist can help the patient work through their feelings and learn to manage their depression. It is also possible that antidepressants will be prescribed to help balance brain chemistry.
The joy of having a child is a wonderful thing but after the birth, both mothers and fathers sometimes experience depression. Knowing the symptoms and seeking treatment are important for the health of the parents as well as the welfare of the child.
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