Postpartum depression. What is it? How to know if you’re at risk and what to do.

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Dr. Sandro Cantoni. Updated May 17, 2021

Becoming a parent is beautiful, but it’s often not so simple. When a baby is born there are major changes in the life of the mother and father. This is a normal stage in this period that often causes crises and adjustments both physical and psychological.

It is a very frequent condition. In fact, in the first year of life depression occurs in about one in 10 women, the incidence is about the same in men.



Early diagnosis is essential.

You need to recognize postpartum depression quickly, because it causes a lot of suffering in the family. Such as separations, divorces, and relational difficulties with the child, with possible alteration of psychomotor development.

If it is recognized early, it can be treated very well with brief psychotherapy. Medications are often not necessary.

There are simple ways to know if you are at risk for postpartum depression, as we will see in this article. 

Do I have depression or just simple sadness, the so-called baby blues?

True postpartum depression and the baby blues are two different things. They can be distinguished fairly easily.

The baby blues is a mild disorder. It is not an illness.

It occurs in more than half of all parents a few days after the birth. In contrast, depression is less common, affecting about one in 10 parents and can start 1-2 months after birth. 

In the baby blues, the parent has an unstable mood, a sense of sadness. It is very emotional, with frequent crying. It usually begins a few days after birth, and the duration is very short, a few days or a week at most. In depression, depressive symptoms last more than two or three weeks.

What is postpartum depression?

It is a real disease, depression.appears during pregnancy or in the first year after the birth of the child. 

It is often thought that depression only affects new parents. Instead, it can occur even when there have already been other pregnancies.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Usually the parent blames him or herself because he or she thinks it should be an extremely happy time. Instead he or she feels sad, and not up to the task. Even though he or she has wanted their baby intensely. 

So the parent may have several depressive symptoms. For example, restlessness for no reason, or deep sadness. Frequent crying, lack of self-confidence. The parent does not feel adequate for their role, and it is the feeling of being a bad parent. One feels dejected and hopeless. 

How do I know if I am at risk for postpartum depression? The self-assessment test.

You can take this simple test online, which is what I use in my practice during regular newborn visits.

It’s called the Edinburgh Scale.

You can take the test yourself here.  Postpartum Depression Screening Test.

How long does depression last?

It doesn’t go away quickly, in a few days like the baby blues. But it can last several months or even many years if it is not diagnosed and treated.

In subsequent pregnancies there is an increased risk of having depressive episodes again.

Is postpartum depression dangerous? Does it affect the baby?

It must be diagnosed early and treated. In fact, if it is not treated, depression can become chronic and therefore much more difficult to cure.

In addition, depression has major consequences on the life of the family and the baby. The mom, or dad, loses confidence in herself, feels inadequate. She thinks is a bad mom.Because instead of being happy she is actually deeply sad. Rarely does the parent think they have postpartum depression. Which is a real disease. It’s not her fault at all. Unfortunately, however, very often relatives tend to blame the mother, or the father. Because instead of being happy and taking good care of his child, the parent is sad. 

Equally serious can be the consequences for the child. That’s because their psychomotor development depends primarily on contact and interactions with dad and mom. And a depressed parent has significantly less positive interactions. 

So what should you do if you have symptoms of postpartum depression?

The first thing to do is to speak up. Don’t keep it to yourself. Don’t stay alone. 

Talk about it with your partner. And also with a health professional, pediatrician or midwife. If necessary, try to talk to a psychologist. To make a precise diagnosis and possibly start treatment. 

In some cases you need to contact the doctor or psychologist as soon as possible. For example, if it is a parent is so exhausted that they can not take care of their baby.

Or the parent is desperate and thinks that death might be a release for them.

If you think these things, even for a moment, call your doctor right away. 

How do you treat postpartum depression?

Often depression is mild and then heals on its own with the support of the family and health care providers who care for the parents. Such as the pediatrician or family doctor or midwives and home care nurses.

Sometimes depression is more important and psychological therapy is necessary. Only rarely should drugs be used.

Conclusions.

Postpartum depression is not rare and can have important consequences for the family and the child. For this reason, at the slightest doubt it is necessary to talk about it and contact a doctor.


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