Signs & symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Every woman is different, but these are some of the more common signs and symptoms of PPD:
- depressed mood or depression with anxiety
- anhedonia, which involves a loss of interest in things that would normally bring pleasure, including the baby
- changes in weight or appetite, which may involve gaining or losing weight
- sleep disturbance and fatigue—common symptoms of depression but very difficult to gauge, since both are normal for new mothers
- physical feelings of being slowed down or restlessness, jumpiness and edginess
- excessive feelings of guilt or worthlessness, which can be exacerbated by not bonding with the baby, when feelings of extreme joy, and love are expected
- diminished concentration, inability to think clearly, which can be worsened by sleep deprivation
- recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. For example, the woman may catch herself thinking that the baby and she are better off dead, or that “the world is such an awful place to bring a new child into that we would be better out of it.”
Signs of depression are often missed in new mothers because significant changes in sleeping patterns, interests, cognitions, energy levels, moods and body weight are a normal part of new motherhood.
New mothers often resist acknowledging these signs even to themselves because of the pressure to meet societal expectations of what it means to be a “good mother,” including how she should be feeling, thinking and behaving.
Causes & risk factors
Although it is not known what causes depression (and therefore PPD), it is believed that there is no single cause. Physical, hormonal, social, psychological and emotional factors may all play a part in triggering the illness. This is known as the biopsychosocial model of depression, and is accepted by most researchers and clinicians. The factor or factors that trigger PPD vary from one woman to another. For example, sleep deprivation resulting from having a new baby can make a woman vulnerable to other factors that trigger depression.