The consequences of depression being unrecognized and untreated can be tragic for the whole family. Be sure to get help for your baby's mother if you think she is having problems with postpartum depression.
The tragic consequences of postpartum depression (PPD) have recently raised the awareness of this common disorder, which affects 10 to 15 percent of new mothers. Although we often think that mothers should be only happy and excited when they have a baby, giving birth can also trigger many unwanted negative feelings and emotions. These feelings of sadness and anxiety can lead to a mild case of the "baby blues" or to a more serious disorder, such as postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.
Postpartum depression can affect almost any mother during the first year after her baby is born, whether or not it is her first baby. Changes in hormone levels may be the cause of PPD. It is also thought that feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed may contribute to this condition.
New dads are often in a good position to recognize the early symptoms of postpartum depression and to offer a lot of help and support, so that a new mom doesn't get overwhelmed by all of the things that she is expected to do. Watch for the symptoms of PPD so you can get help for your partner if she needs it. Be aware of a mother who:
- Is crying a lot and feeling sad and depressed most of the time
- Is feeling irritable or restless
- Has no energy
- Is either not eating and is losing weight, or is overeating and gaining a lot of weight
- Has trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things
- Feels guilty or worthless
- Is not sleeping well or is overly tired
- Is complaining of a lot of physical symptoms, like headaches, chest pains, hyperventilation, or heart palpitations
- Is not interested in caring for her baby, or is overly worried that she will hurt the baby
- Has lost interest in her usual activities, or doesn't get any pleasure from them
Of course, after their baby is born, many new mothers and fathers can have some of these symptoms. They may be tired and not have much energy, just because there are so many things to do and a lot of sleepless nights. If a mother has a few of these symptoms but also is happy and excited to be caring for her baby and otherwise seems well, then she probably doesn't have PPD.
If you think your partner is showing signs of PPD, be sure to talk to a health professional and get some help before she harms herself or her baby. You should also be on the watch for postpartum psychosis, which is a much more serious disorder. A mother who has postpartum psychosis loses touch with reality and may have hallucinations and delusions.