Women often experience low mood after childbirth. This is a commonly observed phenomenon resulting from rapid hormonal changes, which can lead to symptoms such as anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and a sense of inadequacy as a mother, potentially impacting the bond between the mother and the infant.
However, it is important to recognise that this common phenomenon can potentially indicate something more serious, such as postpartum depression, as opposed to postpartum blues, which can resolve spontaneously.
Postpartum Blues (Baby Blues):
- Represents normal emotional changes and adjustments after childbirth, affecting approximately 40-85% of mothers.
- Common symptoms include feelings of sadness, vulnerability, easy crying, irritability, anxiety, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, or difficulty sleeping.
- Symptoms typically arise within the first 2-4 days after childbirth, reaching their peak around day 5, and often improve on their own within approximately two weeks.
- Treatment with antidepressant medication is usually unnecessary for this condition. Physicians may provide support through providing information, counselling, reassurance, and involvement of family members in postpartum care. If symptoms persist beyond two weeks and seem to worsen, it may indicate the development of postpartum depression.
- Affects approximately 10-20% of mothers after childbirth, characterised by depressive symptoms such as sadness, vulnerability, easy crying, irritability, and distinct features uncommon in typical depression, including anxiety and repetitive thoughts related to the infant, such as worries that infant may become ill or the worries about the ability to care for the baby. This can disrupt the bonding between the mother and infant.
- Symptoms often manifest around 4-6 weeks after childbirth and can persist for up to a year without appropriate care. Prolonged untreated symptoms may impact the mother’s ability to care for the infant adequately, leading to issues like maternal irritability, neglect, and potential developmental challenges for the baby.
- Treatment for postpartum depression requires a thorough assessment of various risk factors, especially those affecting both the mother and the infant, as well as the risk of medication exposure as some medications can pass through breast milk. In less severe cases, non-pharmacological interventions, such as various forms of psychotherapy, are usually the preferred options. However, if medication is deemed necessary, its use should be kept to a minimum.
Nevertheless, if a mother experiences symptoms indicative of postpartum blues or depression that significantly impact her daily life and family relationships, consulting with a mental health professional for appropriate care is recommended.
Ariyaporn Tangcheewinsirikul, M.D.
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