Childbirth can trigger many powerful emotions in both parents, ranging from excitement and delight to anxiety and depression. When signs of depression occur after birth, they can signal a very serious condition known as postpartum depression. Experts still have a lot to learn about the causes of this condition, but hormonal changes after childbirth are a probable factor. Symptoms of postpartum depression, or PPD, usually begin two to four weeks after the birth of the baby and may last up to a year or longer.
Individuals with PPD experience prolonged grief and sadness. Even activities and hobbies that used to be fun no longer hold their interest. Moms have a hard time identifying the reasons for this sorrow, although some are aware of the connection to their newborns. PPD can, in extreme situations, trigger mothers to resent their children and neglect parental obligations.
Those with PPD may also exhibit unpredictable mood and temper, feeling fine one minute and agitated or saddened the next. The most commonplace occurrences may incite intense reactions. Mood swings leave them further exhausted and confused, which can lead to shame and self-loathing.
PPD can manifest as intense feelings of being overwhelmed. They suddenly feel inadequate as caregivers and doubt their ability to support and nurture their children. In extreme cases, some women have thoughts of abandoning their children, which further exacerbates guilt when the feeling passes. They may also experience a sense of regret over having the child.
Postpartum depression often causes women to experience frequent crying spells. New mothers cry at odd times and without an obvious cause. This can occur several times a day, with high intensity in severe cases. During these events, the other parent or another caregiver should try to give the mother a break from childcare and ensure she is safe in her surroundings.
Parents with PPD often experience problems with memory and concentration. They begin to ignore work, becoming lost in their thoughts and worries, which can exacerbate anxiety. They also tend to forget where items have been placed or even if they have changed or fed the baby.
People with PPD tend to experience disruptions in their sleep cycles. They experience bouts of insomnia or sleep for longer than they are used to. They may also feel fatigued at odd times, often when a situation demands focus. Of course, a newborn changes every parent's sleep cycle. If the changes are intense and feel unmanageable, or they persist more than two weeks after the baby is born, they may be a sign of postpartum depression.
A significant increase or decrease in a new parent's appetite may be a sign of postpartum depression. Eating habits often return to normal after the pregnancy is over, but continued rejection of favorite foods or gorging on previously hated foods, as well as eating at odd hours, may indicate PPD.
Many individuals with PPD report a loss of libido and complete disinterest in sexual intimacy. This can be attributed to the anxiety and distraction inherent with the increased responsibilities of parenthood. A subconscious association of sex with conception and childbirth can also cause this avoidance, as can depression.
The sense of sadness and anxiety that individuals with PPD feel can cause them to avoid social interaction with friends and family as well as isolate themselves in social situations. They may stop taking calls or responding to messages and avoid work to maintain their solitude.
Fatigue and exhaustion are common in people who have just assumed the responsibility of another human being. However, if this sense of exhaustion persists to the point where it incapacitates a parent several weeks after the birth of the baby, it may be a consequence of postpartum depression.
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