Postpartum depression (PPD) is the term for any downswings in mood that women may suffer after giving birth. While a supportive partner and network of friends can help with normal depression, serious PPDs are hormonally induced and require a doctor's attention.
After weeks of sleep deprivation, it's normal to sometimes think that you could cheerfully strangle your partner for putting you in this position. But it could be a sign of a serious problem if you actually plan when and how to do it. All kidding aside, if you experience dark thoughts or fears that you can't seem to shake off, contact a psychiatrist immediately—you may have postpartum depression.
There is always some moodiness associated with having a newborn in your life because of the simple fact that you spend the early days and weeks suffering from sleep deprivation. And, as you've already seen, having a baby can bring out a lot of underlying issues and insecurities that you've never gotten around to addressing. This can lead to a temporary bout of depression caused by the new circumstances of your life. This is a very real, well-recognized condition, known as postpartum depression.
But there is another situation that is important to consider. When a woman gives birth her body is subject to tremendous hormonal changes. These changes can disrupt her system, resulting in a postpartum depression that will not work itself out over time. It is actually a very serious matter, and can have some very serious consequences if left undiagnosed and untreated.
For example, it is not uncommon for a marriage to split up if the mother suffers from undiagnosed, and therefore, untreated, postpartum depression. When the disorder is misunderstood or unacknowledged, it can put undue stress on the relationship between husband and wife. The mood swings can become extreme, so that the woman falls victim to rages and even delusions.
Postpartum depression is very real. It can lead to psychosis and has been sadly implicated in the deaths of newborns. People who've never experienced the condition often find it hard to understand what the sufferer is going through, but there are support groups and well-informed practitioners who have been educating the public.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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