In any parent’s life, the birth of a baby is a powerful moment. There are often a lot of emotions—from joy to excitement to nervousness. But in some cases, these emotions go beyond excitement or new parent anxieties. In fact, depression is not an uncommon feeling after giving birth. And when it lingers in an impactful way, medical professionals call this postpartum depression.
Unfortunately, postpartum depression has only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the highly infectious delta variant spreads throughout Ohio, it’s important that birthing parents take stock of their mental health to make sure they’re not facing postpartum depression or any other mental health issues after giving birth.
That’s why today, we’re reviewing postpartum depression and what your local mental health care options are to protect yourself from mental health issues after giving birth.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
After a baby is born, there’s a fairly common period of weepiness called the “baby blues.” This usually affects birthing parents for up to two weeks, and it’s categorized by a variety of symptoms, including:
While this period is not pleasant, it’s completely normal and goes away on its own. But sometimes, these issues go beyond feeling sad, and they last for much longer periods. This is called postpartum depression.
While postpartum depression generally starts immediately or shortly after giving birth, it can sometimes start during pregnancy or up to one year after giving birth. This makes it tricky to diagnose, so knowing postpartum depression symptoms can be a useful tool:
- Sadness and crying spells
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Isolating yourself from friends or family
- Overwhelming fears about your ability to be a good parent
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Panic attacks
- Thoughts of death or suicide
As you can see, this is a serious mental health issue, especially because it may affect as many as 15% of birthing parents. But there are certain factors that increase or lower your risk of developing postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
While the exact cause of postpartum depression is unclear, there are certain risk factors that can affect how likely you are to develop this mood disorder. You are more likely to develop postpartum depression if you:
- have a history of depression, especially if it’s during pregnancy
- have bipolar disorder
- experienced postpartum depression in a previous pregnancy
- have experienced stressful life events in the past year, like job loss or health concerns
- struggle with breastfeeding
- face financial problems
- give birth to twins or triplets
- have a baby with health problems or special needs
As you can see, there are a wide variety of factors that can lead to postpartum depression. And unfortunately, the issue does not stop there. In some cases, a more severe mood disorder called postpartum psychosis can develop.
Postpartum psychosis is much rarer than postpartum depression, and it usually develops within the first week after giving birth. While this issue is much rarer, affecting only one in 500 birthing parents, the severe symptoms are certainly worth watching out for:
- Obsessive thoughts about the baby
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Confusion or lack of mental clarity
- Bouts of mania
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Because of these severe and distressing symptoms, postpartum psychosis requires immediate treatment from medical and mental health professionals.
While it would be nice to think that these issues are rare, they’re affecting more and more people during the coronavirus pandemic. Let’s delve into new research on the connection between post-partum depression and the coronavirus pandemic.
Postpartum Depression and COVID-19
As covered above, stressful life events are a risk factor for postpartum depression. And thanks to COVID-19, stressful life events have become the norm, particularly for pregnant individuals who may be facing increased financial or social pressures. These concerns led researchers to conduct an international survey to determine what birthing parents are facing during the pandemic.
Among the almost 7,000 respondents, clear mental health and behavioral trends emerged. The results indicated that among birthing parents who were pregnant or had recently given birth:
- 43% were dealing with post-traumatic stress
- 31% faced anxiety and/or depression
- 53% reported distressing feelings of loneliness
These alarming numbers are tied to the coronavirus pandemic by subsequent data collection in this study. Among the respondents, 86% reported being somewhat or very worried about COVID-19. And unfortunately, these worries can increase risk for postpartum depression. Specifically, respondents reported being concerned about:
- Family not being allowed to visit after delivery
- The baby contracting COVID-19
- Lack of support during delivery
- COVID-19 causing changes to the delivery plan
Unfortunately, taking preventative measures like mask wearing and vaccination did not greatly reduce these fears. And since excessive worries can contribute to postpartum depression, many mental health experts are concerned that this issue will become more common for those who are giving birth during the pandemic.
The good news is that postpartum depression can be treated with professional mental health care. And in Georgetown, Ohio, we provide world-class mental health services to serve our local community.
Mental Health Care in Georgetown, Ohio
At Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we provide an inpatient mental health program for all types of depression. While we understand that it can be hard to separate from a baby shortly after birth, postpartum depression is a serious issue. In some cases, the best thing for the child is for the birthing parent to take some time to focus on their mental health, so that they can return to the child ready to give the support that they need.
At our mental health center, we use an interdisciplinary approach, providing services from doctors, psychotherapists, nurses, and other health care staff. In this way, we administer care that addresses mental health concerns from all angles to give you the best possible chance at recovery.
By employing a variety of evidence-based therapies, we want to help you work through postpartum depression. Having a mental illness is not a flaw or a character defect, but it is important to seek help to protect the wellbeing of both yourself and your child.
Do you have questions about how we can help treat postpartum depression during the COVID-19 pandemic? Call our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4930 or fill out our confidential contact form. There can be a lot of shame that comes with these feelings during pregnancy or after childbirth, but there is nothing wrong with seeking help for a mental health condition. In fact, it is often the easiest way to feel better!