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Postpartum depression: definition, symptoms and solutions

Affecting nearly 15 to 20% of new parents, postpartum depression is a more common disorder than you might think at first glance.

This type of depression following the birth of a baby presents variable cases, depending on the symptoms manifested and their intensity. Still unknown to the general public, this evil is not without consequences on the psychological balance of parents and the development of the child.

Postpartum depression needs to be better understood and taken care of earlier to prevent it from settling in the long term. A complete point on this disorder can be made, by highlighting the precise definition of postnatal depression, its symptoms, its causes and its treatments.

The definition of postpartum depression

Postpartum depression is a depressive disorder that can occur following childbirth. This phenomenon, also called post-natal depression, mostly affects mothers, but also fathers in some cases. It occurs at different times during the baby's first year.

This type of depression is more serious than the baby blues and must be managed with appropriate care. Nearly one in five new mothers is affected by postpartum depression. Among them, studies have shown that 7% experience significant symptoms of depression during the three months following childbirth, and 19% mild to moderate symptoms. It is common to confuse a depressive state with the fatigue associated with the arrival of the baby during these first weeks. The most difficult period is in the three to six months following birth. During this phase, depressions are the most numerous (41% of those affected). After the first six months, the depressive disorders gradually decrease.

Symptoms of this disorder

Postpartum depression is characterized by a series of symptoms that make it possible to identify this disorder in young parents. It is common that people do not realize themselves that they are depressed and do not dare to speak to those close to them to express their difficulties.

For this reason, it is important that those around them are attentive to the symptoms that make it possible to highlight a depressive disorder following childbirth.

The most common are deep sadness for no precise reason, recurrent crying and unexplained as well as a permanent state of exhaustion, going hand in hand with disturbed sleep (nights that are too short or far too long). Mothers often feel a sense of worthlessness or strong guilt raising their child in the first few weeks. They may feel like they are not up to par or find it difficult to establish a realconnection with their newborn.

Other symptoms should be known, such asexacerbated irritability, extreme anxiety, especially with regard to the baby, inability to take care of the infant, or even refusal to spend time with him >.

Postpartum depression can havemore profound consequences on the personality and behavior of new parents, such as appetite disturbances, general disinterest, isolation from others and in the most serious cases, suicidal thoughts.

Causes and risk factors

Depression after childbirth is caused by a set of factors that are difficult to determine. These can be:

  1. physiological causes, such as lack of sleep or exhaustion,
  2. difficulties caused by the enormous changes in daily life with the arrival of the baby.

The constraints created can make a parent feel like an insurmountable task to accomplish. Very often, the contrast between the immense expectations aroused by the arrival of a child and a more complex reality proves difficult to bear. A feeling of disappointment may emerge, which will gradually lead to depression.

Studies have been able to identify several risk factors for postnatal depression:

  1. People who have suffered from anxiety or depression before or during pregnancy are the most prone to this disorder
  2. recent stressful events,
  3. social isolation,
  4. lower self-esteem,
  5. a weakened couple,
  6. difficult breastfeeding
  7. family history must be mentioned.

The solutions to be implemented

These depressive disorders must be treated as soon as the symptoms mentioned above are highlighted. Without care, this state can reduce the ability to take good care of the baby and interfere with the development of an attachment bond with the child. He could then present a cognitive and affective delay, with sleep disorders and emotional difficulties in particular.

A parent with postnatal depression needs to be accompanied and receive all the help he needs. It is important that the spouse does not minimize the mother's suffering, is present to listen to her without judging her and reinforces her presence in the daily life of the child.About 20% of women suffer from symptoms or post-traumatic stress disorder after a difficult childbirth. This can result in a diminished relationship with the child and a blockage in taking care of it properly. The help of a professional is therefore recommended to overcome this paralyzing feeling. Psychotherapy may be helpful, as well as the use of antidepressants for a period of time.

Parent-child units in France are specially designed to reconnect a mother with her child. For immediate support, LigneParents (1 800 361-5085) is a free service available at all times.

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