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Having a baby is a big change for most people, but for some it can be particularly stressful. It is not uncommon to feel depressed at first, but if it does not pass, you may become depressed. If you feel bad, it is important to seek help.

What is postpartum depression?

Postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression (PPD), is a form of depression that can affect women after they have given birth. This type of depression usually occurs within the first few months after delivery, but it can also develop later in the first year after birth. Family members can also suffer from low mood and depression as a result of having a baby, so problems can also affect others close to the child. At Lavendla we can help.

Why do people get depressed after giving birth?

There is rarely a single cause of depression, but in postpartum depression there are several factors at play. Hormonal changes such as levels of oestrogen and progesterone increase during pregnancy and these hormones then drop after delivery, which can make you feel sad. This is normal but you may have mixed feelings as you want to be happy during this important period.

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Other factors may include a difficult birth, doubts about parenting and nursing, difficulties with routines and other mental or medical problems. There are also other causes such as genetic factors, stress, lack of sleep and social influences. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is important to seek help in order to have the best possible relationship with your child.

You are not alone

The HSE state that one in six mothers suffer from postpartum depression, if not more, so if you are feeling depressed, you are not alone. Many people do not seek help, so the number of unrecorded cases is probably high. It is important that you seek help if you feel depressed so that you can get treatment.

Identifying symptoms and signs

The symptoms of postpartum depression are not so different from those of ordinary depression. Here are some symptoms:

  • Sadness and grief: Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness.
  • Loss of pleasure and interest: Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that are normally enjoyable.
  • Difficulty sleeping: Difficulty sleeping or, conversely, increased sleepiness.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy: Feeling of exhaustion and lack of energy.
  • Changes in appetite: Decreased appetite or increased weight loss.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions: Reduced focus and cognitive challenges.
  • Anxiety: Worry, tension or feelings of fear.
  • Feelings of guilt or inadequacy: Feelings of being a bad parent or not being enough.

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Can you have anxiety in postpartum depression?

Anxiety is common when you have problems with depression in general. It is no different in postpartum depression, although it can be more stressful because you have just had a baby. It is possible to get help with this too. Talk to us at Lavendla and we will help you.

Other problems that can occur after childbirth

There are also other mental health problems that can develop after childbirth. These may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other severe problems such as psychosis. If you experience symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions, hearing voices or sounds, or disturbed thinking, it is important to seek help immediately. You can go to a psychiatric emergency room, a regular emergency room or call 112.

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Treatment for postpartum depression

It is important to seek professional help if you suspect that you are suffering from postpartum depression, both for you and for your relationship with your child as it can affect attachment. There are various treatment options to deal with it, and psychotherapy is a common treatment but sometimes medication is also needed.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven to be an effective treatment method, especially when combined with medication such as antidepressants. By talking to a professional therapist or psychologist, you can improve your well-being. Early detection and treatment are important to facilitate recovery and promote a healthy attachment. It is also important for family members to get support if they need it.

We make the difficult easier

Experiencing difficult emotions after childbirth is common and sometimes you may need support. It is an important step in improving your quality of life, both for yourself and your baby. It takes strength to seek help and therapy is a proven method to deal with different problems. By seeking professional help, you can make the difficult things a little easier. At Lavendla we have therapists and psychologists who can help you.

If you or someone you know has thoughts of self-harm, call 112 or seek emergency medical help immediately.

12 frequently asked questions about postpartum depression

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression has the same symptoms as regular depression but this type of depression usually occurs within the first few months after delivery, but it can also develop later in the first year after birth.

What are the most common symptoms?

The most common symptoms include persistent sadness, lack of energy, sleep problems, anxiety, a reduced appetite and feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Consultation with a psychologist or doctor can help make a diagnosis.

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

Diagnosing depression is usually done through interviews and questionnaires that assess your well-being. BVC also carries out a screening 6-8 weeks after childbirth with interviews and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) which measures symptoms of postnatal depression.

How is postnatal depression treated?

Treatment options often include a combination of medication, therapy and lifestyle changes. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychological treatment.

How long does postpartum depression last?

The length of time it takes to recover from depression depends on its severity, which can vary between mild, moderate and severe levels. Some may experience relief within a few weeks, while others need longer treatment.

Can exercise help?

Yes, regular physical activity can help. It is also good to think about other lifestyle factors such as keeping routines, eating well, trying to sleep, asking for help and spending time with people you trust.

What are the risk factors for postpartum depression?

A difficult birth, doubts about parenting and care, difficulties with routines and other mental or medical problems can be risk factors. There are also other causes such as genetics, stress, lack of sleep and social factors.

Can I be depressed as a family member?

Family members can also experience depression in connection with the birth of a child and the associated changes. In this case, it is also important to seek help.

How common is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression affects around one in six mothers, but the number of unrecorded cases can be high.

Where can I get help?

If you experience symptoms of depression, it is important to seek professional help. Our psychologists and therapists are available for online or face-to-face sessions and can help you make the hard part easier.

What can I do if it feels hard after coming out of depression?

Sometimes you can feel shame and sadness even when you are recovering from depression and it can be helpful to talk to someone about it. If you become pregnant again, you can also talk to a midwife.

What other problems can occur during childbirth?

You may also experience anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or the very serious condition of postpartum psychosis. If there are symptoms of psychosis, you should contact an emergency room or call 112.

Tips for dealing with postpartum depression

Seeking help is a big step towards better health. It is a positive thing to decide to take control of how you feel. Here is an overview of the steps usually involved in therapy.

Step 1: An initial assessment session

The first meeting with your psychologist or therapist is usually a diagnostic evaluation to review your mental and physical health. You may be asked questions about your life situation, feelings, thoughts and behaviors. You may also be asked to complete assessment forms.

Step 2: Goal setting

This is where you and your therapist set concrete goals for the therapy, both short and long term.

Step 4: Treatment

This is the start of the actual treatment phase, which may involve treatment such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but also medication if necessary. The therapy may include exercises and homework assignments aimed at giving you tools to change the way you feel.

Step 5: Monitoring and evaluation

Treatment is monitored regularly to see how well the therapy is working. If necessary, the treatment plan can be adjusted or renewed.

Step 6: Ending and looking ahead

As the therapy comes to an end, it is time to reflect on the progress made. You will also receive a plan on how to use the tools and strategies you have learned in the future.

If you or someone close to you is seeking professional help for depression, don’t hesitate to book a session with one of our qualified psychologists or therapists. If you feel very bad and have thoughts of harming yourself, contact the emergency psychiatric services or call 112.

Lavendla – Making the difficult easier

Written by Ellen Lindgren

Licensed psychologist

Ellen is a licensed psychologist and has experience mainly in clinical psychology where she has worked with various conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, crises and trauma in primary care and psychiatry. She has also worked with research while studying in the US and with affective disorders and insomnia at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.