Depression is common after pregnancy. In fact, one in nine new mothers experience postpartum depression.
With hormonal changes and a quick drop in estrogen and progesterone in the first 24 hours after childbirth, it’s not surprising that research has found that this can lead to depression. This is similar to hormone changes before a woman’s period but involves much more extreme swings in hormone levels.
Many women will get what’s commonly referred to as the “baby blues,” or feel sad or empty, within a few days of giving birth. This feeling normally goes away within three to five days. However, if they don’t and you feel down for two weeks or more, it may postpartum depression. While common, the hopeless or empty feeling after childbirth is not an expected part of being a mother, and there is support and treatment to help.
Levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate how your body uses and stores energy from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms of depression. A simple blood test can determine if your thyroid has dropped and they can easily prescribe you thyroid medication.
Other feelings may contribute to postpartum depression.
- Tired after labor and delivery
- Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
- Overwhelmed with a new baby
- Doubts about their ability to be a good mother
- Stress from changes in work and home routines
- An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
- Grief about loss of who they were before having the baby
- Less attractive
- A lack of free time
These feelings are common among new mothers. But postpartum depression is a serious health condition and can be treated. Postpartum depression is not a regular or expected part of being a new mother.
You don’t need to suffer in silence. There are support services and your doctor will be able to assist you.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. There is also an anonymous online chat service available between 8pm and 4am AEST at Lifeline.org.au, or visit Beyond Blue’s website.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of postnatal depression, there are a number places you can go for help:
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby — 1800 882 436