Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?

During the month of May, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) works to raise awareness, reduce stigma, provide support, and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness.1 Many women across the country struggle with mental illness and, in particular, postpartum depression (PPD). Yet, because of the stigma associated with mental illness, they may be hesitant to get the care they need. PPD is real, and fortunately, help is available.

Understanding Postpartum depression

Having a baby can be a time of joy and excitement, and it can also be a time of change and difficulty. Across the country, 1 in 8 women struggle with PPD, and that can be as high as 1 in 5 women, depending on the woman’s ethnicity, age, and state in which she lives.2

It is normal to go through adjustments after giving birth, such as physical, emotional, and lifestyle changes. Feelings of fatigue, worry, and sadness may occur after you give birth, and that is called the “baby blues.” The “baby blues” is not a formal diagnosis. Symptoms of the baby blues are generally mild, usually, last a few days after giving birth, and go away on their own.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of PPD and increase your risk of PPD. Researchers believe that the drastic hormone changes that occur within 24 hours after giving birth can lead to depression.3 Other contributing factors or risks of PPD include: 3

  • Changes in the thyroid gland.
  • Fatigue and feelings of being overwhelmed.
  • Unrealistic expectations of being a “perfect” mom.
  • A lack of free time.
  • Feeling unattractive.
  • Stress due to changes in sleep and routine.
  • Doubts about your ability to be a good mother.

Additional risk factors that can increase your risk of developing PPD include:3

  • A lack of social support.
  • A personal or family history of depression or bipolar disorder.
  • Being younger than 20 years old.
  • Struggling with substance abuse.
  • Experiencing difficulty breastfeeding.
  • Having an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy.
  • Having financial or relationship problems.
  • Having experienced depression during pregnancy.
  • Having a baby with special needs.

Signs of Postpartum Depression

Symptoms of PPD can range in severity and can impact your ability to do daily tasks, such as caring for yourself or your baby. Symptoms usually present shortly after giving birth, last longer than 2 weeks, and can include:3

  • Crying a lot.
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed.
  • Memory and concentration problems.
  • Thoughts of self-harm.
  • Thoughts of hurting the baby.
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, and like you are a bad mother.
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
  • Socially isolating from friends and family.
  • Physical aches and pains that don’t go away.
  • Over-eating or not eating enough.

Substance Abuse and Postpartum

Researchers are finding a connection between PPD and substance abuse. New mothers have higher incidents of illicit drug and alcohol use, and new mothers with PPD may be at an increased risk for substance abuse.4 The physiological, psychological, and lifestyle changes described above can be difficult to adjust to. Many mothers may struggle to cope with the biological and lifestyle changes that occur after giving birth and may turn to substance use to help cope with the changes.4

Research also suggests that substance use and PPD can mutually influence one another. For example, women with PPD may be at greater risk for substance abuse, and pregnant women who drink are at greater risk of developing PPD.4

The risks of using drugs or alcohol after giving birth can range in severity and can impact the mother, child, and other people. Risks associated with using drugs and alcohol after giving birth include:4

  • Difficulty adjusting to the baby’s behaviors and rhythms.
  • Problems with developing and maintaining an emotional connection with the infant.
  • Difficulty anticipating and following the baby’s needs and development.
  • Child neglect or abuse.

If you are struggling with PPD or substance abuse, you are not alone and help is available to you. Don’t wait to get the support you need for yourself.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression and Addiction

When a mental health disorder, such as PPD, and a substance use disorder exist at the same time, it is considered a co-occurring disorder.5 If you are struggling with PPD and substance abuse or you know someone who is, effective treatment is available. Treating both disorders simultaneously is recommended.6

If you are looking for rehab near Dallas, our rehab admissions navigators can help [phone.] At Greenhouse Treatment Center we offer treatment for co-occurring disorders. We offer a variety of treatment options, including inpatient and outpatient treatment to help you recover from PPD and substance use.

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