By Gabi Falanga
Yesterday, in part one of our series on postpartum depression (PPD), we looked at the causes and symptoms of the condition. In part two, we’ll see what the risk factors are for developing PPD and whether new dads are also susceptible to the condition. We’ll also take a look at an even more severe condition, which some women unfortunately develop, called postpartum psychosis.
Risk factors for postpartum depression
Any woman can get postpartum depression, but there are some factors which increase this risk, including if you:
- Have history of depression or bipolar disorder during or before pregnancy
- Had postpartum depression after a previous pregnancy
- Have a family history of depression or bipolar disorder
- Are younger: The younger you are when you have your baby, the more likely you are to get PPD.
- Lack support
- Sleep deprivation or exhaustion
- Poor diet
- Have relationship or money problems
- Misuse alcohol or drugs
- Struggle to breastfeed
- Have an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
- Have complications during or after pregnancy
- You or your baby have health issues, or if your baby is premature or has special needs
- Have twins or other multiples
- The pregnancy was unplanned or unwanted
According to a study quoted by Healthline, 80% of mothers have the baby blues in the weeks following their child’s birth. The study interviewed 973 women and 26% of them said they had depression before pregnancy, 33% said their symptoms started during pregnancy, and 40% said symptoms started after the baby was born.
Healthline also reported that more than 1 in 6 women experienced postpartum anxiety and that suicide is the second most common death in postpartum women – accounting for 20% of postpartum deaths.
Postpartum psychosis, although rare, is a very severe condition that develops as early as 48 hours after childbirth. It affects 1 to 2 women in every 1000 after birth. Most women who develop postpartum psychosis, do so within the first two weeks after birth. Psychosis can lead to life-threatening thoughts and situations and should be treated immediately. The signs and symptoms include:
- Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
- Delusions (believing things that are irrational)
- Confusion and disorientation
- Feeling agitated, angry, restless and having excess energy
- Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
- Behaving recklessly or in a way that’s not normal for you
Can new dads also experience postpartum depression? The answer is yes! Around 25% of fathers get PPD, experiencing the same symptoms that women do. The condition is sometimes called paternal postpartum depression and a man’s risk of developing it is increased if he’s young, has a history of depression or is experiencing financial or relationship difficulties.
It’s no doubt that experiencing postpartum depression can be scary and traumatic, but there are ways to treat it. Tomorrow, in the third and final part of this series, we’ll look at tips for coping after childbirth, how you’ll know if you need treatment, and what your treatment options are.
If you need help with postpartum depression or psychosis, contact The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) on 011 234 4837 or 0800 20 50 26.