While becoming a mother can be exciting, it also involves many changes and disruptions. Over half of women report moodiness lasting for a few hours or an occasional day during the first two weeks after childbirth. This is sometimes called postpartum blues which are unpleasant, but natural and not a psychological problem.
Postpartum depression is a more serious concern and occurs in approximately 12% of women after childbirth. Most symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as symptoms of depression at other times.
In order to be diagnosed as having postpartum depression a woman must experience sadness, loss of pleasure, or loss of interest most of the time for a minimum of two weeks. Other symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of worthlessness or guilt, agitation, problems with concentration or decision making, loss of motivation, hopelessness, and recurring thoughts of death.
Often women who experience postpartum depression have already begun to suffer from anxiety or depression during pregnancy.
A number of factors place women at higher risk for postpartum depression, including:
- previous history of depression
- lack of good supports
- conflicts with the father of the baby
- occurrence of stressful life events
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is an effective treatment for postpartum depression. Women are educated about the nature of postpartum depression and the factors which contributed to their distress. Clients are also helped to change thinking patterns which trigger depression and loss of self-esteem. In addition, clients learn strategies to attend more to their own needs again, while responding to the many demands of motherhood.
It is not uncommon for men to feel distressed during the transition to parenthood. Men may seek help for their own difficulty coping with the challenges they experience in becoming fathers.