Postpartum Depression (cont.)

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How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

There is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has PPD. Therefore, health care professionals diagnose this disorder by gathering comprehensive medical, family, and mental health history. Patients tend to benefit when the professional takes into account their client's entire life and background. This includes, but is not limited to, the person's gender, sexual orientation, cultural, religious, ethnic background, and socioeconomic status. The health care professional will also either perform a physical examination or request that the individual's primary care doctor perform one. The medical examination will usually include lab tests to evaluate the person's general health and as part of screening the individual for medical conditions that might have mental health symptoms.

Postpartum depression must be distinguished from what is commonly called the "baby blues," which tend to happen in most new mothers. In the brief mood problem of baby blues, symptoms like crying, feeling sad, irritability, anxiety, and confusion can occur. In contrast to the symptoms of PPD, the symptoms of the baby blues tend to peak around the fourth day after delivery, resolve by the 10th day after giving birth and do not tend to affect the parent's ability to function.

Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency that requires immediate intervention because of the danger that the sufferer might kill their infant or themselves. Postpartum psychosis usually begins within the first two weeks after delivery. Symptoms of this condition tend to involve extremely disorganized thinking, bizarre behavior, unusual hallucinations, and delusions. Postpartum psychosis is often a symptom of bipolar disorder, also called manic depression. While seasonal affective disorder (SAD) features depression, it takes place at a particular time of year, typically in the darker winter months.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/30/2014

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