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Postpartum depression

Author : Marielle van der Meer

Last update: 19 november 2022
Giving birth to a child is always a significant event. In both positive and negative ways. Pregnancy hormones are rushing through your body. Your nights get shorter. And you’ve suddenly become a mother: It’s a huge responsibility. Sometimes the changes are so significant that the arrival of your child can lead to postpartum depression. Have you recognized symptoms of postpartum depression in yourself or your partner? Read on to learn more about postpartum depression and what you can do about it.

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Postpartum depression: How does it come about?

Profound event

Becoming a mother is a major event for any woman. Everything changes: Your body, your routine, your responsibilities, the degree of control you have over your daily life. The event of childbirth itself also often has a huge impact, both physically and psychologically. And the hormonal changes in your body create a roller coaster of emotions.

So, it’s perfectly normal if straight after having a baby, you don’t feel like you’re on cloud nine all the time. There’s even a special term for this: The ‘baby blues’. This term describes the first 10 to 14 days after a child is born, during which 50-80% of women experience overwhelming emotions and grief. In many cases, you’ll slowly recover your balance, both mentally and physically. You’ll grow into your new role as a mother, and feel increasing amounts of delight and confidence in your relationship towards your child. But sometimes that doesn’t happen and the balance starts to shift towards anxiety and depression. You feel like you’re not cut out for your new role as a mother and you have little faith that things will improve. Have you had these feelings for longer than two weeks? Then we would describe this as postpartum depression.

Recognizing the symptoms of postpartum depression

  • You feel sad
  • You keep crying
  • You don’t feel like doing anything and not much interests you anymore
  • You find it difficult to bond with your baby, or even feel resentful towards it
  • You sleep a lot, or not at all
  • You feel irritable and aggressive
  • You have poor concentration
  • You eat too much or very little
  • You feel anxious and might suddenly panic. For example, because you’re seriously concerned about your baby
  • You feel insecure and worthless. You feel like you’re not a good mother
  • You feel empty inside
  • You feel desperate and you worry a lot
  • You sometimes think about harming yourself or the baby


Risk factors

Around 1 in 7 women may experience postpartum depression to some degree in the year after giving birth. This means that it is certainly not weird or unusual, and you’re definitely not the only woman to experience feelings of anxiety and depression after having a baby. Whether you have a higher or lower chance of developing postpartum depression depends on a number of factors. The following factors affect your chances of developing feelings of depression after childbirth:

Physical factors

  • Genetics
    Some people are more genetically predisposed to feelings of depression.
  • Hormones
    During and after labor, your hormone levels change dramatically. As a result, you may develop a mood disorder, such as depression after giving birth.
  • Thyroid
    Hormonal changes in your body affect many of your bodily functions, including those of your thyroid. If your thyroid gland becomes disrupted, this can cause depression.
  • Vitamins
    Pregnancy affects your balance of vitamins and minerals, which sometimes leads to a deficiency in vitamins B6, B12, zinc and iron. This has an effect on your mental resiliency.


Psychological factors

  • Perfectionism
    Placing high demands on yourself and motherhood increases your risk of developing postpartum depression
  • Labor
    A particularly difficult and traumatic labor increases your chance of developing psychological symptoms.
  • Unprocessed grief
    Are there any major life events that you haven’t yet managed to process properly? If so, these emotions will often come into play during and after pregnancy.
  • Insecurity
    Becoming a mother is nerve-wracking and it’s a task you want to do well. Insecurity can often get in the way, and this leads to difficult feelings of failure and inadequacy.


Social factors

  • Relationship problems
    Caring for a baby is exhausting, even if you’re doing it with another person. Any problems within your relationship will create extra pressure and tension.
  • Not enough support
    Have you ever heard the phrase: It takes a village to raise a child? Bringing up a baby is much easier if you’ve got people around you to give you a helping hand. Without support from family and friends, you’re more likely to develop postpartum depression.
  • A poor relationship with your parents
    When a new baby arrives, you need your parents as much as ever. Parenting also provides an opportunity to reflect on the relationship you have with your own parents. Is it not good? Then this sometimes brings up unpleasant memories and feelings.
  • Parents and siblings who demand a lot from you
    As well as being a mother, are you also a caregiver for someone in your family? Or do you work with your family, and do they demand a lot from you? Then this will increase your chance of developing postpartum depression.
  • Age
    Young mothers, particularly teen mothers, are more likely to develop postpartum depression.
  • Financial problems
  • Cultural factors


Tips for postpartum depression

It’s common to develop feelings of sadness and depression after giving birth to a baby. Have these symptoms of depression lasted for longer than two weeks and do you have the sense that they’re not improving? Then this is a sign of postpartum depression. Try to be gentle with yourself; you’re certainly not to blame for feeling this way. Here’s how to deal with feelings of depression when you become a mother:

  • Take your thoughts and feelings seriously
    That means acknowledging and accepting that you’re not doing so well.
  • Don’t feel guilty for feeling and thinking the way you do
    It’s not because you’re a bad mother, it’s because of the depression. And that depression is treatable.
  • Talk to people
    Choose people you trust and share your feelings and concerns. This will act as a huge relief.
  • Get help
    Ask if, in addition to your partner, other people around you would like to help care for the baby. This will give you more time to rest.
  • Speak to your doctor
    Having a conversation with a nurse practitioner or psychologist can help to alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression.


Getting help from a professional

Are you suffering from postpartum depression? Or have you recognized symptoms of postpartum depression in your partner, and are you concerned? Why not make an appointment with one of our psychologists? They offer several treatment options to help with symptoms of postpartum depression.

Do you have any questions about postpartum depression and how to manage it? Then call us on +31 8513 08900.

Author : Marielle van der Meer

Psychologist

“You are not alone. Many women struggle with depressed feelings after giving birth. “

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