Post natal depression is a psychological illness that affects 15% of the female population after child-birth. It is described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition as depression with onset within 4 weeks after childbirth usually occurring around two weeks after childbirth and may last between a year and several months. Post natal depression symptoms are usually evident a few months following birth. Symptoms can include guilt, sadness, lack of energy and social withdrawal. This widely misunderstood mental disorder has been also referred to as post-partum depression or PPD, and is closely linked with clinical depression.
A number of risk factors have been identified that may contribute to the onset of post natal depression, with possible causes being attributed to the hormonal changes during pregnancy and the combination of the risk factors. Treatments are available through medical professionals and are most effective when administered as soon as symptoms are noticed.
Post natal depression is an illness associated with women. However, men are also prone to suffer from PPD with rates varying between 1.2 - 25% of the male population. The rates of women suffering are in the range of 5% - 25% with African-American women being the most at risk and Asian/pacific island peoples having the lowest occurrences. The significance of PPD is that this disorder is most likely to affect women in the post-birth period, and it is this period of time that women can expect the greatest risk of developing a psychologically damaging condition.
Symptoms of post natal depression
Post natal depression can be diagnosed by the combination of these symptoms to varying degrees of severity:
Sadness or crying
Feelings of Hopelessness
A feeling of being overwhelmed
Sleep pattern disturbance and eating problems such as over-eating, weight gain or loss of appetite.
Exhaustion, fatigue and malaise
Anhedonia (the loss of interest in typically pleasurable activities)
Reduced social contact.
Increased anxiety or panic attacks
Lack of energy
Spells of anger towards others
Becoming easily frustrated
Feelings of inadequacy in terms of child rearing.
Impaired speech and writing
decreased desire for sex or intimacy.
Risk factors for post natal depression:
All women are at risk of developing post natal depression, with some women being more prone than others. Risk factors have been found that can markedly increase the chances of developing post natal depression:
Formula feeding rather than breast-feeding
Prenatal depression during pregnancy
A history of depression
Lack of social support
General stress related to relationships, the workplace or financial stress-ors.
Poor marital relationship
Infant temperament problems/colic
Single Marital Status
Low socio-economic status
Three risk factors have been identified that when combined have a big impact on the chances of developing PPD. These factors are: formula feeding, history of depression and smoking cigarettes.
The general conclusions of the risk factors studied pointed to poor social support network, lack of financial resources and either bi-sexual or lesbian sexuality preference were the factors most likely to contribute to developing post natal depression following child birth.
Causes of post natal depression
Lack of vitamins were first thought to be a cause of the illness, although it is now thought that a combination of hormonal changes following child-birth, combined with a number of risk factors such as low socio-economic status, poor social support and history of pre natal depression can place a certain percentage of women at a higher risk than others.
Treatments for post natal depression:
Treatments follow a careful diagnosis by a trained medical professional using The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is a standardised self-reported questionnaire.
After a diagnosis, a number of treatments are available. The two most widely used are CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy, and anti-depressant medication or a combination of the two. Both CBT and anti-depressant medication are equally effective, and the preference is up to the patient as to which treatment would suit them best. Positive results are usually seen within 4 weeks, with some women taking longer than others to respond.
Other treatment options are stable sleep patterns, a nutritious diet ( omega 3's and b vitamins) and group therapy sessions.
Post natal depression is a widespread mental illness that affects women during the post birth period. Timely recognition and accurate diagnosis by a medical professional are key to bringing the condition under control, and restoring quality to ones life.