It is common for new parents to feel depressed, confused, frustrated, tired, and disillusioned – that’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Symptoms of prenatal and postpartum depression (PPD) are often dismissed as “just part of being pregnant” or “being a new parent”. When depression persists or impacts functioning, prenatally or postpartum, it can be treated.
Prenatal depression occurs during pregnancy and is characterized by trouble sleeping, fatigue, changes in appetite, loss of enjoyment in pleasurable activities, increased anxiety, frequent crying, suicidal ideation, and poor maternal-fetal attachment. The cause of prenatal depression is not fully understood but researchers believe it may result from a mix of physical, hormonal, emotional, and environmental factors.
It is important to remember that mild prenatal depression will not affect the baby, however, if left untreated, it may affect healthy weight gain in women during pregnancy. Untreated depression in pregnancy has been associated with low birth weight and premature birth. Women who have experienced depressive symptoms are at increased risk for postpartum depression. If a new mother has had depression before getting pregnant, symptoms may be more severe during pregnancy than they were before.
Postpartum depression occurs in those experiencing new motherhood and fatherhood. For a woman, these changes can result from physical and emotional factors. After childbirth, there is a dramatic drop in hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone, that can leave the mother feeling tired, sluggish, and depressed. Emotional changes occur due to lack of sleep, the feeling of being overwhelmed, adjustment to a new role, relationship stress, and anxiety about the ability to care for a newborn.
Some signs of postpartum depression in men include anxiety, lack of sleep, change in partner relationship dynamics, and changes in eating patterns. New fathers who have a history of depression, experience relationship problems, or are struggling financially are most at risk for developing postpartum depression.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that postpartum depression treatment is available and it is possible to feel better. New parents should not feel shame for experiencing PPD and seek treatment for their symptoms. If medication to help PPD has not worked, consider Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). TMS therapy offers another choice for depression for both men and women experiencing PPD and is a safe method for pregnant (and breastfeeding) women.