Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression, can occur in mothers from three days to six weeks after giving birth. Though similar, postpartum depression should not be mistaken for postpartum blues, which are fairly common for mothers immediately after giving birth and can be characterised by a transient depression lasting for up to 72 hours. Symptoms of postpartum depression may be relatively mild, but they may also range to major depressive episodes over a period of time. Unlike the more short-term and immediate postpartum blues, the covert nature of postpartum depression makes early recognition and subsequent treatment particularly difficult. This lack of recognition is one of the core dangers of this mood disorder and social stigma is a major contributor associated with this. While the postpartum period is a time of elevated risk, an estimated 50% of postpartum depression cases still go undetected; a concerning notion as 10-13% of new mothers have been reported suffering from this postpartum mood disorder, while the actual number may be much higher.
Recognising symptoms of postpartum depression in new mothers should be prioritised, but overcoming the insidious covert nature of this disorder is largely in the hands of the mother. It is important for the mother to recognise the signs and react accordingly. Some of these include:
- Mild/major depressive symptoms
- Difficulty bonding or feeling close to your baby
- Overwhelming fear of inadequacy as a mother
- Recurrent thoughts of harming yourself and/or your child
- An inability to function ‘normally’ in taking care of yourself and/or your child