UNDERSTANDING POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION AND HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

 

12 May 2022

Postpartum depression is a common type of depression many new mothers have after giving birth. It affects up to 15% of women and usually manifests itself through emotional highs and lows, fatigue, frequent crying, anxiety, and guilt. These emotions are natural, especially for new parents. 

Postpartum depression is an illness with biological and psychological components and may occur in any woman who has recently given birth or adopted a child, regardless of age or history of mental health problems. The symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety;
  • Changes in eating habits (weight loss or weight gain);
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed;
  • Restlessness or irritability;

However, if they reach extreme levels of loneliness and severe mood swings, you may need to consult a gynaecologist in Singapore.

How is Postpartum Depression Diagnosed?

To diagnose postpartum depression, the gynaecologist may request that you undergo a specific screening that involves answering a series of questions. In many cases, hospitals and healthcare facilities will use the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to evaluate your postpartum depression. This test will help them determine how severe your depression is and the right course of action.

The gynaecologist may also order a blood test to eliminate other possible causes of your depression, such as thyroid disease. Both are necessary to ensure that you are given the correct diagnosis.

What are the Different Types of Postpartum Depression?

Depending on the test results, the severity of your postpartum depression can be divided into three major categories.

  • Postpartum Blues

Also known as baby blues, it is the first type of postpartum depression that affects between 50% to 75% of women after delivery. 

This depression is standard and can occur within the first few weeks after birth. It may last a couple of days or up to two weeks. Some women have minimal symptoms, while others experience crying spells, mood swings, and exhaustion. Some women feel like they’re not bonding with their baby as much as they should be and may seem more irritable than usual.

If you think you have this condition, you should be experiencing prolonged or frequent bouts of crying, anxiety, and sadness. Usually, you’ll start to notice these symptoms during the first week of post-delivery. In some cases, this condition subsides after two weeks with no necessary treatments. Other times, it may evolve into something more severe.

  • Postpartum Depression

From baby blues to full-fledged depression, the second type of this condition affects about 1 in 7 mothers. The rate increases by 30% for women who’ve undergone previous episodes. For this category, you may experience more severe symptoms relating to irritability, fatigue, inability to care for the baby, and extreme highs and lows. While it can happen during the first few weeks after giving birth, this condition can last up to a year. 

  • Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is the rarest and most severe of the three types. It can affect around 1 in 1,000 women after giving delivery, and it may require emergency medical attention.

The symptoms of postpartum psychosis often appear immediately after giving birth and can last up to several months. Some of the symptoms include paranoia, confusion, agitation, insomnia, hyperactivity, feelings of shame or hopelessness, and mania or rapid speech. People who experience postpartum psychosis are at a higher risk of suicide and causing harm to the baby. 

Treatment Options for Postpartum Depression?

The treatment and postpartum recovery may vary depending on your needs and the level of your depression. In some cases, medication can help treat postpartum depression. But keep in mind that antidepressant drugs aren’t meant to be used forever; they’re often prescribed for at least eight weeks and then withdrawn under a doctor’s supervision. They may also have side effects, such as drowsiness or nausea, and you’ll need to wait at least four weeks after giving birth before starting any new medications.

If you have underlying conditions, this may also affect the treatment process. But to give you a better idea, here are some treatments your gynaecologist may propose.

  • Psychotherapy

If you’re undergoing postpartum depression, your gynaecologist in Singapore may recommend psychotherapy. Here, you will be required to share your concerns and symptoms with a psychiatrist or mental health professional. Then, through continuous sessions, you can find better coping mechanisms to sort your feelings, solve problems, respond to situations positively, and set realistic goals. 

  • Antidepressants

If you’re experiencing anxiety, stress, and extreme loneliness, the gynaecologist may also prescribe antidepressants. But take note: if you’re taking antidepressants while breastfeeding, the medication may affect your milk production. Fortunately, many antidepressants have little to no side effects on your baby. 

  • Medication

For more severe types of depression, doctors may prescribe a combination of medications. Examples of this include antipsychotic medications, benzodiazepines, and mood stabilizers. These types of medication function to regulate your symptoms and prevent potential breakdowns.

  • Electroconvulsive Therapy

However, if medication is not enough, your gynaecologist may recommend that you undergo electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). This procedure passes small electrical currents to your brain to intentionally trigger a brief seizure. The impact of ECT will change your brain chemistry and hopefully lessen the symptoms of your depression or psychosis. Because of its complex nature, this treatment should only be your last resort. Consult with your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of getting this procedure.

Consult with Your Gynaecologist

Postpartum depression may be common in all mothers to various degrees. Therefore, the severity of the symptoms and proposed treatment methods may be different. That’s why is important to go for a consultation with your gynaecologist in Singapore to assess your condition should early signs appear. Only then can they can provide the right treatment early to help you recover.