What is Postpartum Stress, Anxiety, and Depression?

The onset of postpartum stress, anxiety and depression tends to be gradual and may persist for many months. About 15% of the childbearing women are affected by the postpartum depression. It is a mental disorder with a consistent change in mood and behavior and may result in suicidal ideations.

Postpartum stress and depression are classified into early onset and late onset. An early onset depression is known as baby blues is a mild stress during the first day or first week of delivery. Mothers show signs of irritability, anxiety and mood change. These symptoms disappear after a week or two. Baby blues is a common disorder that almost 80% of the mothers experience.

A late onset depression appears several weeks after the childbirth. This involves a gradual growing of feelings of depression, stress, sadness and chronic tiredness. Mothers with late onset depression show signs of weight loss, appetitive loss, inability to sleep and difficulty caring for their babies.

Postpartum anxiety is a part of postpartum depression. Some mothers feel anxious and overwhelmed after child birth. The level of anxiety gradually increases and hampers the daily activities characterized by a drastic change in feelings and behavior.

Most likely, postpartum depression is caused by sudden hormonal changes. Other risk factors associated with the development of stress, depression and anxiety are medical indigence, delivery at a very young age (mother less than 20), before marriage delivery, poor parental support, low self esteem, emotional imbalance, lack of education and poor relationship with the husband.

Experiences and the degree of depression and anxiety may differ but the major postpartum symptoms include persistent low mood, guilt, shame, exhaustion, tearfulness, confusion, anxiety, feeling of loneliness and failure. Many mothers also show some drastic behavioral changes like lack of interest in routine activities, insomnia, changes in eating habits, inability to cope with the routine, withdrawal from social contacts, poor memory, reduced energy and suicidal ideation.

Patients should undergo watchful clinical opinion from a psychologist or psychiatrist to determine the risk factors and diagnose the condition. Doctors use Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) to diagnose the degree of postpartum depression.

It is essential to have a good treatment for postpartum depression symptoms or it will lead to fatal health conditions. The basic treatment includes psychotherapy and medications. Medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most effective for treating the levels of depression and anxiety after delivery. Interpersonal therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy have also found to be effective in treating the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety.