Perinatal psychiatric disorders, including postpartum depression, are among the most common complications of childbearing. Postpartum depression is characterized by a moderate to severe depressive episode that a mother experiences after the birth of a child. The episode could begin soon after the birth, or up to a year later; most cases of postpartum depression occur within three months of delivery. Mild symptoms, including tiredness and tearfulness, often follow childbirth and are known as the “baby blues.” These symptoms do not usually indicate full-scale postpartum depression, and often go away without treatment.
Symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal psychiatric disorders may include:
- Feeling restless or moody
- Feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
- Crying a lot
- Having no energy or motivation
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Having trouble focusing or making decisions
- Having memory problems
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Losing interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Having headaches, aches and pains or stomach problems that don’t go away
Postpartum depression and other perinatal psychiatric disorders may be caused by rapid hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy and delivery. The possible drop in thyroid levels can lead to depression and fatigue.
In addition, childbirth causes both physical and emotional stress. Factors such as changes in social relationships, body changes due to pregnancy and childbirth, fear of inadequacy as a mother, sleeplessness and a lack of personal time could all be contributing causes of postpartum depression.