Perinatal depression is characterized by extreme sadness, anxiety and fatigue that can occur both during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. The term includes both prenatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy, and postpartum depression, which occurs after the birth of the baby. One in seven women who become pregnant experiences postpartum depression, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
What are the signs of postpartum depression?
In addition to the extreme feelings of sadness, anxiety and fatigue, those suffering from postpartum depression often experience low energy and moods, irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, poor appetite and pains that make it difficult to perform daily tasks. The more common symptoms of postpartum depression are:
- Feeling of sadness or anxiety
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities
- Fatigue or decreased energy
- Restlessness or difficulty sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering
- Difficulty sleeping (even when the baby is asleep)
- Abnormal appetite, weight changes or both
- Headaches, cramps, aches, pains or indigestion
- A problem in a relationship or making an emotional connection with the new baby
- Ongoing doubts about the ability to care for the new baby
- Thoughts of death
What causes postpartum depression?
Depression can be caused by genetic or environmental factors like stress and physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and neonatal care, as well as hormonal changes that occur during and after pregnancy. Those who have a personal or family history of postpartum depression, like Spears, are at higher risk during and after subsequent pregnancies.
A 2017 study found that women who experienced postpartum depression were at higher risk for recurrent depression. According to the data, among 450,000 first-time mothers in Denmark, those who experienced postpartum depression were 27 to 46 times more likely to experience it again after subsequent births.
How to treat postpartum depression?
There are several treatment options and they include treatment, medication or a combination of the two. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to treat depression by changing ways of thinking, setting expectations and improving communication. This along with possible treatment with antidepressants, these may improve the way the brain uses certain chemicals that control mood and stress. The right treatment for each person “is completely individual,” said Dr. Tamar Gur, a gynecologist and fertility psychiatrist. “There is always a place for treatment and then medication can be included if the depression is severe.”
“We are not doing enough work to support women through maternity leave,” Dr. Gore commented on the singer’s post, adding – “As Brittany noted, it’s better than it was when she was pregnant before – but we have a long way to go.”