Childbirth is an amazing, exciting experience. So why do the “postpartum blues” affect so many women? About 85% postpartum mothers have mood disturbances, while 26% develop postpartum depression (PPD). Within the first year, 1 in 5 women will also have a depressive episode.
PPD should be taken seriously. Aside from harming her health, it might impair parenting style and the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development of the child. Family relationships may also suffer.12
Moreover, mothers with PPD are also less likely to breastfeed, which is linked to better health and immune function.3 Wondering why it happens?
1. Physical Exhaustion
Lack of sleep is common in America. The nightly sleep recommendation is 7 hours, but about 35.2% get less.4 This is a major cause of depression, stress, and relationship problems. What more with a baby? Postpartum women sleep less compared to the weeks before delivery.
They’re caring for an infant, healing from childbirth, and adjusting to changes at home. Together, these factors can fuel insomnia, a condition that triggers and aggravates depression. It also leads to fatigue, irritability, and confusion. Existing sleep problems may also worsen with PPD, creating a dangerous cycle.
2. Crying Baby
Babies cry – a lot! This adds to not only a mother’s exhaustion but also stress levels. It’s even harder with colicky babies. Colic is defined as intense crying for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for over 3 weeks. This can last till the baby is about 3 months old.5
According to a 2006 study, colic and PPD go hand in hand. Constant crying severely increases anxiety, especially with inexperienced parents. A frustrated mother reduces interaction, making the baby cry even more and causing a vicious cycle. About 9–26% of infants have colic, but of course, any level of inconsolable crying can be stressful.6
3. Lack Of Support
Childbirth changes everything. And like all life changes, it’s hard to get through without social support. In a 2013 study, UCLA researchers found that family support significantly reduces PPD. It also slows down the increase of placental corticotropin-releasing hormone (pCRH), a stress hormone. A steeper rise, on the other hand, would spark more PPD symptoms.
Partner support is even more important. If there’s little to none, the risk for PPD increases, so teamwork is vital.7 Concerned about lack of support? Be open with friends and family. Communicate that you need a shoulder to lean on. Form relationships with other mothers, whether it’s on parenting sites websites or in your neighborhood.
How To Reduce Postpartum Depression Symptoms
The stress of a new baby can’t be eliminated. These tiny humans depend on you! However, there are things you can do to limit or control PPD.
- Hire someone to babysit other children, clean the house, or walk the dog. Spending the money will be worth it because you cannot do it all alone.
- Involve relatives and friends who are willing to help. If your mother-in-law is so excited that she wants to play babysitter, let it happen.
- Be honest with your partner. Even if you’re frustrated, don’t start a fight. Remind them that it’s a team effort.
- Go for walks with the baby. You’ll get exercise, sunshine, and bonding time.
- Don’t feel guilty about taking breaks. You deserve it.
Visit a therapist. With the help of a professional, you can tackle PPD once and for all.
|↑1, ↑2||Hahn-Holbrook, Jennifer, Christine Dunkel Schetter, Chander Arora, and Calvin J. Hobel. “Placental corticotropin-releasing hormone mediates the association between prenatal social support and postpartum depression.” Clinical Psychological Science 1, no. 3 (2013): 253-265.|
|↑3||Dørheim, Signe Karen, Gunnar Tschudi Bondevik, Malin Eberhard-Gran, and Bjørn Bjorvatn. “Sleep and depression in postpartum women: a population-based study.” Sleep 32, no. 7 (2009): 847-855.|
|↑4||Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑5||Colic. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑6, ↑7||Akman, Ipek, K. Kuşçu, Nihal Özdemir, Ziya Yurdakul, Mine Solakoglu, Lale Orhan, Aytül Karabekiroglu, and Eren Özek. “Mothers’ postpartum psychological adjustment and infantile colic.” Archives of Disease in Childhood 91, no. 5 (2006): 417-419.|