Finding out that you are pregnant can bring a wide range of emotions. The spectrum can vary from joy and excitement, to fear, anxiety and stress. During the nine months of pregnancy, you can expect hormonal and physical changes to occur.
Once you have gone through labor and delivery, the breastfeeding and caretaking of a new born can bring an additional level of worry and stress. This period can be emotionally and physically draining on a woman and it is common to experience baby blues, or even postpartum depression. Several studies suggest that women are vulnerable to sudden changes in their hormones during this period which can trigger the onset of depressive symptoms.
Postpartum or postnatal blues differ from postpartum depression. Depression is a disorder that can be categorized if the symptoms persist for longer than 2 weeks. This is when the mother will require medical attention. Postpartum depression is a mood disorder presenting with symptoms that can occur immediately after birth and up to one year after delivery. Undiagnosed depression during pregnancy is the number one risk factor for postpartum depression. Untreated depression during pregnancy or after delivery can have a permanent impact on the cognitive and emotional development of the infant.
A mother with postpartum depression will experience at least five of the following symptoms for more than two weeks:
Depressive disorders are treatable conditions, especially if it’s identified early during pregnancy or after delivery. If you have or your family have a history of depressive disorders, you should let your doctor know as soon as you find out your pregnant. Your doctor can then monitor you closely for signs and symptoms of depression. After delivery, screening for symptoms of depression is recommended. Mild depressive disorders can benefit from a support group or therapy, whereas moderate to severe depression may need a combination of antidepressants and therapy.
The duration of treatment varies from one patient to another. This can also depend on the severity of depression, any underlying medical illness (e.g. thyroid dysfunction), co morbid conditions, a past history of mood disorders, family history and your support system.
In addition to professional treatment, you can help yourself by:
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