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Postpartum Depression: Meaning, symptoms, causes, why it may persist three years after giving birth

The birth of a child can have several effects on a new mother, from anxiety to joy to fear to excitement but that is why it can also result in depression. Most new moms experience postpartum "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. 

But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme mood disorder called postpartum psychosis also may develop after childbirth.

What is Postpartum Depression?

According to WebMD, Postpartum depression (PPD) is a "complex mix of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that happen in some women after giving birth. According to the DSM-5, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, PPD is a form of major depression that begins within 4 weeks after delivery. The diagnosis of postpartum depression is based not only on the length of time between delivery and onset but also on the severity of the depression."

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression 

The symptoms of postpartum depression are different for every mother. While many women have symptoms like difficulty sleeping, appetite changes, excessive fatigue, decreased libido, frequent mood changes, some may also experience other symptoms of major depression like depressed mood, loss of pleasure, feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness, thoughts of death or suicide, thoughts of hurting someone else. 

Untreated postpartum depression can be dangerous for new moms and their children so it is recommended to reach out for help from doctors and family in case of such feelings. 

Study finds postpartum depression may persist three years after giving birth

According to a recent health study of 5,000 women, it has been found that approximately 1 in 4 experienced high levels of depressive symptoms at some point in the three years after giving birth. The rest of the women experienced low levels of depression throughout the three years.

The study was conducted by researchers at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). 

The study said, "These long-term data are key to improving our understanding of mom's mental health, which we know is critical to her child's well-being and development."

Researchers assessed women's symptoms through a brief, five-item depression screening questionnaire, but the study did not clinically diagnose depression in the women. Women with underlying conditions, such as mood disorders and/or gestational diabetes, were more likely to have higher levels of depressive symptoms that persisted throughout the study period.

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