What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, is relatively common amongst new parents. The condition itself is a form of clinical depression that affects many parents after childbirth. Symptoms often include lack of energy, sleeplessness, crying fits or episodes, mood swings, low sexual desire, change in eating habits, and can also include anxiety or irritability.

The symptoms of postpartum depression often subside within a couple weeks for most parents, but some new parents experience more extreme forms of postpartum psychosis that can last several months, or even years. These cases are the most dangerous, and require the help of a mental health professional in order to accurately diagnose and treat the condition.

Some would be surprised to learn that postpartum depression doesn’t just affect mothers. Prevalence rates in women are estimated at 5 to 25-percent, as methodological differences amongst studies make the actual rate unclear. Fathers, also suffer from postpartum depression, and the instances seem to be on par with the rate at which women suffer from the condition – an estimated 1 to 25.5-percent of the time. Once again, methodological differences makes accurate estimates very difficult, however we do know that this condition affects both men and women, and at roughly the same rate of prevalence.

Postpartum Depression
What is Postpartum Depression?

While the causes of postpartum depression aren’t well-understood, hormonal changes, genetics and major life events are all believed to be contributing factors. Evidence strongly suggests that hormonal changes are the most likely culprit, and one study, from 2009, by researchers at University of California, Irvine, reported that levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) during the 25th week of pregnancy may one day be able to accurately predict the rate at which females will suffer from the condition.

Methods Used in Therapy for Postpartum Depression

The first step toward treating postpartum depression is an accurate diagnosis. Since there are many irregularities between cases of postpartum depression, accurate diagnosis is often difficult. In fact, the term postpartum depression no longer exists in the DSM-4 or DSM-5. In the DSM-5, postpartum depression is diagnosed as a depressive disorder with peripartum onset.

After an accurate diagnosis is achieved, there are a variety of effective treatments for postpartum depression. Hypnosis, acupuncture, massage and other alternative medicinal practices have proven to be effective in relieving some of the symptoms involved with the condition, while medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and antidepressants, have proven trustworthy treatment methods for others. Cognitive behavioral therapy has also been developed and tested as a possible treatment method, and the results have been promising. The best treatment option is often a combination treatment prescribed by a mental health professional that may consist of cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, and/or alternative medicine such as hypnosis, light therapy, acupuncture, or dietary changes that feature increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Why Hire a Therapist?

Postpartum depression is a commonly occurring condition, but most parents aren’t properly equipped to deal with it on their own, which leads to increased risk of harm to themselves or others, self-medication, or increased risk of long-term psychosis.

While most parents affected receive relatively mild forms of postpartum depression that quickly fades in the coming days or weeks, those with fits of uncontrollable sadness, anger, or depression should always seek professional help to manage the symptoms while attacking the cause. A qualified therapist can help you to get back to your baseline, while limiting the symptoms you’ll have to battle on a day in and day out basis.

What to Look for When Finding a Therapist

Therapists that have experience in dealing with postpartum depression, or even a more generalized depression-based specialization are often well equipped at providing you with treatment for the condition. Additional specializations, such as acupuncture and massage are often used with some success, but results have increased effectiveness when used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or medication prescribed by a mental health professional.