Postpartum Depression - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Postpartum Depression - Medical Malpractice

Postpartum depression is sometimes also be called the "baby blues". It can occur with any pregnancy and involves feelings of sadness, hopelessness and feeling as though you can't possibly love your new baby. As many as 80 percent of women experience some mood swings following pregnancy. Guilt over their negative feelings about their baby is a predominate feeling as well.

The symptoms are disabling in 10-20 percent of postpartum women. The "baby blues" tends to be a passing state of high emotions that occurs in half of women who have recently had a baby. It peaks about 3-5 days after the birth of the baby and lasts for up to two weeks. Usually no treatment for this is required. There may be more crying behaviors on the part of the mother.

True postpartum depression is also called postpartum non-psychotic depression. It occurs in 10-20 percent of postpartum women. It begins a few months after having a baby. Risk factors include previous major depression, inadequate social support, previous PMDD, and psychological stress. Symptoms include having a depressed mood, being tired, sleeping often, having suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, feeling inadequate as a parent, tearfulness, difficulty sleeping and an inability to enjoy your life. You can have negative thoughts about the baby and feel like you might harm the baby.

Postpartum psychosis is a severe disorder of the postpartum state and fortunately, it is rare. Psychotic symptoms occur within three weeks after having the baby. There are delusions and hallucinations related to the baby. Symptoms include agitation, inability to sleep and postpartum mood swings. Women have persistent feelings of wanting to harm their baby. They are at a higher than average rate of following through with their symptoms. It is likely to occur with subsequent pregnancies, even if treated appropriately at one pregnancy.

There have been no specific causes for postpartum depression. It is thought to be related to hormonal imbalances. The hormones progesterone, cholesterol and estrogen fall precipitously after birth and some women may be more sensitive to these hormonal changes.

Risk factors for postpartum depression include previous mental illness, mental illness in the family, postpartum mental disorder previously, marital conflict, money troubles and poor social support. Pregnancy loss, such as a stillbirth or miscarriage can precipitate postpartum depression, even in women who didn't want to be pregnant.

The physical changes after pregnancy can contribute to getting postpartum depression. There can be a loss of muscle tone and problems losing weight. The fatigue experienced by new mothers can be a contributing factor. There can be pain and soreness around the birth canal that can be very uncomfortable. Hormonal changes can adversely affect the mood. While it is common to have emotional changes after birth, they are extreme in cases of postpartum depression. There is no relationship between the number of children a woman has or the age of the mother at the time of the child's birth and getting postpartum depression.

If you experience the following symptoms, you need to seek medical advice: frequent crying, feeling sad, lack of pleasure in usual life activities, weight loss, lack of energy, sleep problems, anxiety, agitation, guilty feelings about how you feel about the baby, thoughts of death or suicide, decreased interest in sex, problems concentrating, problems with making decisions, and feelings of rejection.

You can have physical symptoms with postpartum depression such as chest pain, palpitations, frequent headaches, numbness, and dizziness or vertigo. Postpartum anxiety is not the same as postpartum depression but the two are related.

The diagnosis of postpartum depression depends on carefully recognizing the symptoms and seeking the advice of a doctor. The doctor will ask you questions about your life and your feelings and can make a diagnosis on the basis of your answers. You may have to fill out a Beck Depression Inventory or an MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), which may flush out the diagnosis. There is also the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is more related to the pregnancy and symptoms you might have after the pregnancy.

The treatment of postpartum depression involves psychotherapy which may help with coping skills. Antidepressants, such as SSRIs, can be used to change the hormonal milieu so that the depression can resolve itself over a few weeks.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here