Having a new baby is usually thought of as one of life’s happiest occasions. But for a significant percentage of new mothers, it’s the beginning of a period that can range from mild sadness to severe depression. Maternal depression affects up to 40 percent of mothers with young children, according to research published in the Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics. And about 1 out of 10 women go beyond the “baby blues” to have frequent postpartum depressive symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control, marked by frequent crying, feelings of anger, withdrawing from loved ones and fear that you may hurt your baby or be unable to care for him or her.

Some experts feel this number is too low. “It’s estimated that approximately 3 million women per year are diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD)—and that’s probably an underestimate, since many cases still go undetected,” notes Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Indiana University Health.

Both pediatricians (who see new moms the most often) and obstetricians try to screen women for postpartum depression in the first few weeks after delivery. But while pediatricians who ask about maternal depression has increased by about 30 percent from 2004 to 2013, less than half screen for the condition, according to the recentJournal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics study.

If you’ve recently given birth, when you leave the hospital you may be given a questionnaire called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). It asks you to respond to 10 different questions about your mood or outlook and can help identify if you are risk for PPD. Here’s what else you need to know about postpartum depression.

1. There’s no single cause. “PPD is likely caused by a combination of physical and emotional factors,” says Dattilo. The rapid hormonal changes that are a part of childbirth can disrupt chemical signals to the brain responsible for mood, she notes. In addition, sleep deprivation (something new moms know a lot about) can trigger symptoms for the same reason.

2. Some women are at increased risk. If you have a family history of PPD or a personal history of depression, anxiety or previous postpartum depression, you may be more likely to develop the condition. In addition, going through extreme stress during or immediately after birth (such as losing your job or dealing with a death in the family) can trigger symptoms, says Dattilo, as can medical complications during pregnancy or delivery or having a premature delivery.

3. You may find yourself recognizing some common warning signs. “Women with postpartum depression will feel sad or have frequent mood changes,” says Emily Scott, director of the well newborn unit at Indiana University Health. “They may feel overwhelmed and have a hard time caring for themselves and their baby.”  These moms may also withdraw from family and friends, have changes in appetite, and have difficult sleeping while feeling very tired (or they may sleep much more than usual). Women with PPD can also feel like they can’t bond with their baby and have difficulty enjoying activities, even ones they used to like. They can feel worthless and have difficulty concentrating.

4. PPD doesn’t always come on right away. “Symptoms can begin any time before, during or after delivery, but it most commonly starts to appear between one week and one month after giving birth,” says Dattilo. The timing largely comes down to each woman’s individual biology and circumstances, she adds. “Some women can even develop symptoms while pregnant, and yet it’s not uncommon for others to develop symptoms six months to a year after giving birth.” Postpartum depression can last for several months, depending on the mother’s response to treatment.

5. Treatments are at hand. If you think you may have PPD, start by talking to your doctor. “Your obstetrician or your baby’s pediatrician can help you get started in treatment, which may include seeing a perinatal mood counselor, or in some cases antidepressants,” says Scott. You may also be encouraged to try cognitive behavior therapy, which can be delivered one on one or in a group setting. With a little time and help, you can get back to enjoying all that new motherhood has to offer.

— By Alyssa Shaffer 

Original article here