After the happiness comes to the sadness – The long-awaited baby is born. The newly minted mother would be overjoyed and looking forward to the upcoming time with her child. Unfortunately, not all women feel positive.
Baby blues or postpartum depression?
If the depressive mood occurs a few days after birth and disappears after about eight to ten days alone, it is the baby blues. Physicians assume that the hormone change after delivery is decisive for this temporary mood low.
Once the female body has regained its hormonal balance, the slight depressive moods disappear on their own.
On the other hand, postpartum depression can last for a few days, weeks, sometimes even up to two years after the birth of the baby, last for several weeks or even months and, at worst, become chronic.
Symptoms, causes, and treatment of baby blues
On the second or third day after birth, about 50 percent of all women who have recently given birth notice the following abnormalities:
- mental sensitivity
- lack concentration
- mood swings
- increased irritability
- sleep disorders
In the further course, the women creeps a feeling of failure in connection with total overstrain. The baby blues reach their peak about four to six days after delivery, then fade away around the tenth day.
Physicians attribute this reaction to the abrupt drop in the pregnancy hormones progesterone and estrogen immediately after delivery. Added to this is the purely physical strain on the newly minted mother.
Birth-related wounds heal, and the bodily regression processes require energy. The milk production gets underway, and the ovaries return to their function, leading to a further change in the hormonal balance.
Medical treatment of the baby blues is usually not required. For most women, the supportive advice is provided by the attending gynecologist or midwife. The partner and other close people should also carefully approach the young mother, offering talks and practical help.
Experience shows that emotional support, encouragement, and support help most women to experience their temporary mood loss less dramatically and to overcome it more quickly.
Symptoms, causes, and treatment of postpartum depression
A serious postpartum depression develops in contrast to the baby blues rather creeping. It can start right after birth. Typically, however, the first symptoms do not appear until four to twelve weeks later. At first, the symptoms are very similar to those of the baby blues.
However, they do not pass after a few days but increasingly burden the mother-child relationship. Many women suffer from fear of failure and feelings of guilt because they were so looking forward to motherhood and now they can not feel love for their baby.
They had desired nothing more than a child. Now they are disappointed and confused. At the same time, they are ashamed to talk about their negative feelings, fears, and worries.
Many of the affected mothers, but also “ignorant” relatives see the complaints as a concomitant of the adaptation process to the new living situation. Postpartum depression is a serious illness that nobody blames.
In any case, the hormone change also plays a crucial role in a serious postpartum depression. Also, there may be experienced traumas during childbirth, chronic lack of sleep, breastfeeding problems, problems in the partnership or the high claim of the woman to herself regarding her role as a mother.
Genetic predisposition, pre-existing mental illness, iron deficiency, or thyroid disorders can also promote postnatal depression.
There is a scientific questionnaire, the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale (EPDS). This is designed specifically for the period after the birth and asks ten questions about the emotional well-being of the woman. After evaluating the answers, a psychologist can conclude that there is postpartum depression.
What treatment options are there in the case of postpartum depression?
In contrast to baby blues, prolonged postpartum depression poses the risk that the child may develop developmental problems as a result of the disturbed relationship with his mother.
Therefore, not only the mother should be treated, but also the disturbed mother-child relationship. Depending on the severity and the symptoms, the following treatment options are possible:
- psychotherapeutic treatment without medication (talk therapy, body therapy, group therapy)
- Psychotherapeutic treatment in combination with medicines, so-called antidepressants (It should be noted, however, that these drugs pass into breast milk and may necessitate a weaning and the doctor will, therefore, perform a careful benefit-risk analysis before the start of therapy and advise the parents accordingly .)
- Involvement of the partner and other family members (learning how to deal with the patient, developing understanding and support)
- support group
If inpatient therapy is required, there is the possibility of special mother-child treatments.
The first port of call for affected women and their relatives is certainly the gynecologist or midwife. If the mother herself or her partner does not want to express “publicly” the concerns that there might be a postpartum depression, they can also contact other counseling centers, such as the family self-help association of the mentally ill (BApK), 53119 Bonn, Oppelner Straße 130, telephone 0228 71002424, www.bapk.de, contact. Here, affected people not only receive advice but on request also get in touch with suitable psychotherapists.
Are there any options for prevention?
The baby blues certainly cannot be completely prevented. To mitigate the side effects, women should go as far as possible during the last weeks of pregnancy their expectations of the “motherhood” not too high.
The socially mediated picture of the permanently careless and overjoyed mother rarely agrees with reality. Also, good social support is very important. A mentally strong partner and the family can help to overcome depressive moods more quickly.
The course of a postpartum depression depends largely on when it is detected. In the beginning, the symptoms are usually indistinguishable from those of a self-releasing baby blues. Many women also try to hide their condition and suffer too long. It is better to face the existing problems and complaints and, if necessary, to seek professional help early on.
Can fathers also get the baby blues or a childbed depression?
What sounds strange at first may still happen. Of course, there is no hormone change in new-born fathers. According to studies, about 10 percent of all young fathers have feelings of sadness, diffuse anxiety, lack of interest in sex or suffering from sleep disturbances after the birth of their child.
The symptoms are often strikingly similar to those of mothers suffering from postpartum depression. Scientists suspect as a reason that many men feel the birth of their baby as a deep cut in their previous lives. Some are also afraid of the future. They get mentally and emotionally out of balance. Help, as for women, does not exist for men at this stage.
TIPS FROM GYNECOLOGIST DR. VERENA BREITENBACH
- To also admit ambivalent feelings for motherhood.
- Involve the family and friends and talk about the feelings.