Hormones fluctuate significantly during pregnancy and during the months afterward. Many women will experience feelings of unexplained sadness as a result, be irritable or restless, and struggle with anxiety. Usually, however, these symptoms fade in the first two weeks after giving birth.
Some women, however, have a completely different emotional experience after childbirth. Some will experience the symptoms described above, but those symptoms will linger for far longer than a few weeks. Others will be relatively fine in the first weeks after giving birth but will develop symptoms within three to 12 months. When either of these situations occurs, it is often diagnosed as postpartum depression.
Unfortunately, the unexpected nature of the disorder as well as the symptoms may make it difficult for women to seek the help they need to find balance for their own sake as well as the health and well-being of their new baby. Many attempt to self-medicate the issue by abusing prescription pain relievers prescribed for pain management after delivery (especially in the case of a C-section), drinking alcohol or using other drugs. The abuse of illicit substances only serves to deepen the depression, however, and can make it more difficult for the patient to reach out for help.
Signs of Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression manifests much like other forms of depression that occur due to other events in life with a few additional symptoms that are specific to the task of child raising. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the following are signs of postpartum depression:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or joylessness
- Altered appetite
- Inability to sleep even when the baby is sleeping
- Feelings of guilt or being ill-equipped to be a good mother
- Feelings of anxiety about the safety of the baby or, conversely, feeling completely disconnected from the baby
- Inability to enjoy fun activities or being with the baby
- Low energy or ability to concentrate
- Difficulty taking care of the baby, oneself or simple tasks around the house
- Suicidal or morbid thoughts
- Feeling nervous or unable to be alone with the baby
In some cases, women have thoughts of harming the baby, especially when the child is inconsolable. Though these thoughts are rarely acted on, they are a clear sign that help is needed and should be discussed with a doctor or therapist.
Substance Abuse and Self-Medication
Whether a woman struggling with postpartum depression uses drugs prescribed to her legitimately for the treatment of pain, drinks alcohol, or uses drugs illegally, any use of substances can be an indication that Dual Diagnosis treatment is necessary when accompanied by the symptoms listed above.
Management of depression should come through medical and psychotherapeutic assistance, not through the use of substances that can make the symptoms far worse. Connecting with a program equipped to help treat both disorders at the same time is the most effective choice for women in this position. The sooner they can overcome depression and substance use, the sooner they will be able to move forward with their family.
Treatment Helps: Call Now
According to the Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of mothers struggle with postpartum depression in the months after having a new baby. If postpartum depression and/or substance abuse is affecting someone you love, help them connect with a Dual Diagnosis rehab program that will be able to help them heal today. Call us at the phone number listed above now.
David W. Newton is a board certified pharmacist and also has been a board member for boards of examiners for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy since 1983. His areas of expertise are primarily pharmaceuticals as well as cannabinoids. You can read an article about his expertise in CBD on the National Library of Medicine.
Reviewed by: Kim Chin and Marian Newton