Postpartum depression can be extremely debilitating. It can also rob a new mother of some of the joys of having her new baby. Post partum depression affects as many as 1 out of 8 women during the first few months of their child’s life. Especially when left untreated, postpartum depression can become not only debilitating, but dangerous.
Depression can be caused by a variety of factors. For the woman who has just had a baby, postpartum depression may be a special concern. In many cases, it isn’t known what causes depression. Some research suggests that postpartum depression may be related to the shifting levels of estrogen and progesterone that takes place in a woman’s body during and immediately after pregnancy. Other research suggests that the hormones produced by the thyroid also drop after birth, and that these drops can also cause the symptoms of depression. However, it may not always be possible to attach a single, simple cause to post partum depression.
When left alone, untreated depression will seriously affect a woman’s family. Severe postpartum depression affects a mother’s ability to be a good mother. She might be irritable, agitated, and have little or no energy. She might be unable to meet her new baby’s needs of love and attention. She might feel guilty about these things, and this guilt can often intensify the postpartum depression. Some research suggests that untreated postpartum depression can cause the child a variety of problems, such as language delays, trouble with emotional bonding, problems with behavior, trouble sleeping, and a variety of other stressful problems. Some studies suggest that untreated postpartum depression can lead to other more severe problems, such as postpartum psychosis. While not directly linked to postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis is a severe illness that can be recognized by delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking, and suicidal or homicidal feelings or impulses.
The good news is that postpartum depression is treatable. The most successful treatment of post partum depression will likely include a combination of therapy, antidepressant medications, and a social support structure. Together, these treatments will exponentially increase a woman’s chances of dealing with postpartum depression successfully.