After giving birth, many women can start experiencing depression symptoms. In many of these cases this sensation – also called ‘baby blues’ – is temporary and mainly due to the many changes a woman experiences during pregnancy and delivery. In some cases; however, postpartum depression could be the underlying cause.
What is postpartum depression? When does it happen?
Postpartum depression (PPD) affects more than 10% of new mothers and is the most common complication of childbirth. Its symptoms can be very similar to those of conventional depression and can be felt anywhere from just a few days after giving birth to a couple of months after. There are many signs of postpartum depression; unfortunately, they are commonly discarded as “normal” reactions associated with giving birth and labeled ‘baby blues’. Some of these symptoms include:
- Negative feelings towards the baby
- Lack of concern for yourself or the baby
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Loss of pleasure
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
If left untreated, postpartum depression can negatively impact an infant and the mother’s mental and physical development and even become chronic depression.
Why do women get PPD? How can we treat it?
Even though the actual causes are still unknown, there are a series of factors that can put you at a higher risk of PPD. The most common factor could be hormonal changes during and after giving birth. We can add to that the physical and emotional changes that occur after birth.
Women who have had a history of depression prior to the pregnancy or who have suffered from PPD during a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing PPD. The risk of PPD is also much higher for women who have bipolar disorder.
Other factors that can put women at risk, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:
- A weak support system
- Unplanned parenthood
- Financial problems
- Stressful events during the past year (pregnancy complications, illness, relationship issues)
Many women who were previously excited and happy to welcome a child into this world will feel wretched and devastated after birth, often convincing themselves that they are unfit to be mothers.
Treating PPD can be tricky; mothers have been hesitant about taking antidepressants out of concerns on how it will affect the baby. A study by the British Medical Journal recently indicated that taking SSRIs during the second half of a pregnancy more than doubled the risk of that baby developing persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).
Transcranial magnetic therapy is increasingly becoming a preferred method of treatment for postpartum depression because it is a non-drug, non-invasive therapy that will not produce side effects for the mother or the baby. A TMS treatment session involves the gentle placement of a small magnetic arm against the patient’s head. The treatment is completely non-invasive; patients remain awake and alert throughout the entire treatment. Patients are able to drive themselves to work or home immediately following the treatment session.
A study published by the Washington University School of Medicine chronicled 9 antidepressant-free women suffering from postpartum depression, 8 out of them achieved remission of symptoms after 4 weeks of repetitive TMS Therapy. Additionally, results showed a significant increase in mother-baby bonding. This demonstrated promising results for the use of TMS therapy in various types of depression.