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After having a baby, many women have mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed, have a hard time concentrating, lose their appetite or find that they can't sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 2 to 4 days after delivery and may last for several days.
Who gets postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is more likely if you had any of the following:
There are many causes. Hormone levels change during pregnancy and right after childbirth. Those hormone changes may produce chemical changes in the brain that play a part in causing depression.
Low thyroid functioning is very common in women after childbirth. The baby's thyroid can produce antibodies against the mother's thyroid causing hypothyroidism. This may be one of the chief causes of postpartum depression and weight gain.
Long chain polyunsaturated omega 3 fatty acid deficiency may contribute to depressive symptoms in alcoholism, multiple sclerosis and postpartum depression. Adequate long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), may reduce the incidence of depression just as omega 3 fatty acids may reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease.
In studying 20 healthy primiparous women (women bearing their first child) without significant health or psychiatric problems, a significant connection between reduced serum cholesterol levels and depressive symptoms postpartum was found.
How long does postpartum depression last?
It's hard to say. Some women feel better within a few weeks, but others feel depressed or "not themselves" for many months. Women who have more severe symptoms of depression or who have had depression in the past may take longer to get well. Just remember that help is available and that you can get better.
What kinds of treatments help with postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression is treated much like any other depression. Support, counseling ("talk therapy") and medicines can help. If you take an antidepressant medicine, it will go into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking an antidepressant while nursing. Your doctor can decide which medicine you can use while nursing your baby.
If you have given birth recently and are feeling sad, blue, anxious, irritable, tired or have any of the other symptoms mentioned here, remember that many other women have had the same experience. You're not "losing your mind" or "going crazy" and you shouldn't feel that you just have to suffer. Here are some things you can do that other mothers with postpartum depression have found helpful:
(1) "Dietary Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Depression: When Cholesterol Does Not Satisfy", Hibbeln, Joseph R. and Salem, Norman, Jr., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1995;62: pp.1-9.
(2) "Rapid Decrease of Serum Cholesterol Concentration and Postpartum Depression," Ploeckinger, Barbara, et al, British Medical Journal, September 14, 1996;313: p.664.
|Strong or generally accepted link|
|May do some good|
|Likely to help|
|May have adverse consequences|
Antibody: A type of serum protein (globulin) synthesized by white blood cells of the lymphoid type in response to an antigenic (foreign substance) stimulus. Antibodies are complex substances formed to neutralize or destroy these antigens in the blood. Antibody activity normally fights infection but can be damaging in allergies and a group of diseases that are called autoimmune diseases.
Anxiety: Apprehension of danger, or dread, accompanied by nervous restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath unrelated to a clearly identifiable stimulus.
Cholesterol: A waxy, fat-like substance manufactured in the liver and found in all tissues, it facilitates the transport and absorption of fatty acids. In foods, only animal products contain cholesterol. An excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
Copper: An essential mineral that is a component of several important enzymes in the body and is essential to good health. Copper is found in all body tissues. Copper deficiency leads to a variety of abnormalities, including anemia, skeletal defects, degeneration of the nervous system, reproductive failure, pronounced cardiovascular lesions, elevated blood cholesterol, impaired immunity and defects in the pigmentation and structure of hair. Copper is involved in iron incorporation into hemoglobin. It is also involved with vitamin C in the formation of collagen and the proper functioning in central nervous system. More than a dozen enzymes have been found to contain copper. The best studied are superoxide dismutase (SOD), cytochrome C oxidase, catalase, dopamine hydroxylase, uricase, tryptophan dioxygenase, lecithinase and other monoamine and diamine oxidases.
DHA: Docosahexanoic Acid. A metabolite of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.
Fatty Acids: Chemical chains of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms that are part of a fat (lipid) and are the major component of triglycerides. Depending on the number and arrangement of these atoms, fatty acids are classified as either saturated, polyunsaturated, or monounsaturated. They are nutritional substances found in nature which include cholesterol, prostaglandins, and stearic, palmitic, linoleic, linolenic, eicosapentanoic (EPA), and decohexanoic acids. Important nutritional lipids include lecithin, choline, gamma-linoleic acid, and inositol.
Hormones: Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Hypothyroidism: Diminished production of thyroid hormone, leading to low metabolic rate, tendency to gain weight, and sleepiness.
Multiple Sclerosis: Demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, causing patches of sclerosis (plaques) in the brain and spinal cord, manifested by loss of normal neurological functions, e.g., muscle weakness, loss of vision, and mood alterations.
Polyunsaturated: Polyunsaturated fats or oils. Originate from vegetables and are liquid at room temperature. These oils are a good source of the unsaturated fatty acids. They include flaxseed with added vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), sunflower oil, safflower oil, and primrose oil.
Postpartum: After childbirth.
Postpartum Depression: The "baby blues" are a very frequent and completely normal consequence of childbirth, usually wearing off soon afterwards as hormonal and psychological systems get back to normal. Postpartum depression is a less common but severe depression that begins in the weeks following delivery. It impairs the ability of the mother to care for the child and fall in love with it. This makes her feel even more depressed and inadequate thinking that she can not be a good mother. At the extreme, postpartum depression may lead to dangerous delusions (for example, thinking the baby is in some way deformed or cursed) or hallucinations (that may command violent acts). This can occasionally result in a tragic episode of suicide and/or infanticide.
Premenstrual Syndrome: PMS consists of various physical and/or emotional symptoms that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation. The symptoms begin about midcycle, are generally the most intense during the last seven days before menstruation and include: acne; backache; bloating; fatigue; headache; sore breasts; changes in sexual desire; depression; difficulty concentrating; difficulty handling stress; irritability; tearfulness.
Serum: The cell-free fluid of the bloodstream. It appears in a test tube after the blood clots and is often used in expressions relating to the levels of certain compounds in the blood stream.
Thyroid: Thyroid Gland: An organ with many veins. It is at the front of the neck. It is essential to normal body growth in infancy and childhood. It releases thyroid hormones - iodine-containing compounds that increase the rate of metabolism, affect body temperature, regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate catabolism in all cells. They keep up growth hormone release, skeletal maturation, and heart rate, force, and output. They promote central nervous system growth, stimulate the making of many enzymes, and are necessary for muscle tone and vigor.
Tinnitus: A sensation of noise (ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition and can usually only be heard by the person affected.