Postpartum depression: symptoms & treatment
From the miracle of life to sadness and indifference – after childbirth, around 15% of mothers suffer from what is known as postpartum depression. Therapist Claudine Haus and former patient Yvonne Suter tell us about their experiences, the symptoms of the condition and the treatment options available.
Postnatal or postpartum depression?
The two terms postnatal and postpartum come from Latin. Post means after. Natal refers to the birth of the child. The term partum is therefore more accurate, as it refers to the delivery. Antenatal depression also exists but, as the name suggests, refers to depression during pregnancy.
What are the causes of postpartum depression?
Most people have heard of the low period that follows the euphoria of birth, known as the baby blues. The parents' lives are turned upside down. For the new mother (and father), the baby determines the daily and nightly routine and, in about 15% of women, this leads to depression. Risk factors for the condition include:
- Biological – the hormonal change
- Genetic – predisposition, cases of depression in the family
- Psychological – previous depressions
- Personal – tendency to perfectionism, high expectations
- Social – lack of support from partner and close circle
What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?
What affects these mothers most is a guilty conscience, a feeling of shame. Am I allowed to be unhappy when becoming a mother was supposed to be the greatest experience of my life? Nowadays, this expectation of motherhood is further reinforced by over-positive depictions on social media and in films. Patients also report of:
sadness, a low mood
lack of interest, indifference
fears and tormenting thoughts
What is the difference between postpartum depression and the baby blues?
Therapist Claudine Haus explains in the podcast Hallo Gesundheit (Hello Health) that patients usually find it difficult to tell the difference. They often blame their problems on lack of sleep: "After the first birth, it's hard to classify these feelings, because the woman is having this experience for the first time." According to Claudine Haus, an important indicator is the duration. If the mother feels depressed for more than two to four weeks and can no longer find joy in anything, she is advised to seek professional help. To classify and identify postpartum depression, the therapist also recommends the self-test from the Swiss Postpartum Depression Association (EPDS questionnaire).
How is postpartum depression treated?
In the podcast, therapist Claudine Haus grades the three levels of postpartum depression:
If the depression is mild, emotional support and concrete help are important. Partners and relatives can and must give the patient assistance. Talking to a therapist is helpful – and also to others with the condition. In severe cases of postpartum depression, Claudine Haus recommends consulting a psychiatrist to check whether medication is necessary. The psychiatrist can then also provide information on which anti-depressants can be taken while breastfeeding.
From antenatal depression to postnatal psychosis
Yvonne Suter is also a guest on the CSS podcast and speaks as a patient with various clinical pictures. In the podcast, Yvonne Suter uses humour and sensitivity to relate her dramatic story of depression. She also tells us how she learned to deal with it during the pregnancy and birth of her second child.
On average, three in every 1,000 women are affected by postpartum psychosis. In contrast to depression, psychosis causes the patient to lose touch with reality. Instead of indifference or sadness, the woman suffers from delusions. Psychoses are mental illnesses and patients must be given urgent psychiatric support!
We’re here for you
After childbirth, it's normal to experience a short period of baby blues with mood swings, sadness, tiredness and exhaustion. However, if the condition continues and gets progressively worse, medical treatment is essential. CSS health coaches will provide support and answer any questions you have on depression before or after childbirth.