Postpartum Depression - Experiences

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What is postpartum depression? Are there different types of postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression may be the most common problem associated with childbirth. It has been described as afflicting prominent historical figures like author/suffragist Charlotte Perkins Gilman in the 19th century. This illness is characterized by depression that a woman experiences within four weeks of childbirth, affecting about 9-16% of women who give birth. Postpartum depression occurs after one out of every eight deliveries in the United States, affecting about half a million women every year. Postpartum depression is also called major depression with postpartum onset. Delusional thinking after childbirth, called postpartum psychosis, affects about one in every thousand women.

Notably, postpartum depression is not an illness that is exclusive to mothers. Fathers can experience it as well. As with women, symptoms in men can result in fathers having difficulty caring for themselves and for their children when suffering from postpartum depression.

Unfortunately, up to 50% of individuals with postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis are never detected. That can result in devastating outcomes for the patient and family. For example, postpartum psychosis is thought to have been a potential factor in Andrea Yates drowning her five children in 2001 and was explored as a factor in Susan Smith drowning her two sons.

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Comment from: iwannabebetter, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: August 26

I was a new mother that experienced a divorce within months before my child's birth. I felt sad the day I had the baby. I also felt sad upon the exit from the hospital. A week later I went to the doctor because I was still sad and I didn't want to be bothered with my child. I felt guilty that I felt that way and all I could do was cry. I did not eat and I never wanted to be left alone. I had thoughts of horrible things but I knew I would never hurt myself or my child. I just wanted the thought to go away. I felt like nothing was helping, medications or family support. Still sometimes I will have a thought and hate. I talk to a friend and I get more active. I feel bad because my child's father is not in the picture but I realize when she sees all of the pictures and remembers all of the memories at least she will see him there. Get help... know it's nothing that you done to have this problem. It's a chemical imbalance. If medication helps, take it! Don't be afraid to say what you are feeling, it's the only way you can get help. I am getting better still 4 years later. I have hope!

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