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Depression is a common disease. If you have depression as a new parent, it is called postpartum depression. If you are experiencing postpartum depression, it is especially important to seek care quickly. Seeing as you have a child to care for, depression may take longer to heal, especially when you are sleep deprived.
Symptoms of postpartum depression
The symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as in other depression: loss of energy, hopelessness, loss of interest, difficulty feeling pleasure, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. In deeper depressions, one can be severely tormented by feelings of guilt and hopelessness, which can become so strong that life does not feel worth living.
Difficulty connecting with your child
Especially in postpartum depression, it can be difficult connecting with your child and feeling the joy when becoming a parent. You love for your child may have to wait until the depression heals. Until you understand that you have depression, this often leads to severe feelings of guilt. But it is nothing to feel guilty or ashamed of. It is the depression that makes you feel that way. Once you overcome depression, you will be able to connect with each other without hindrance.
Baby blues or three-day crying
It is very common to become emotional, depressed, and cry easily a few days after giving birth. It’s called baby blues, or three-day crying. Baby blues should begin to alleviate within a few days. If it gets worse and worse every day for more than 1-2 weeks, it may be signs of depression developing.
Postpartum depression in fathers and non-birth mothers
Even fathers and non-birthmothers can get depressoion as new parents. It’s understandable that you develop depression. Depression emerges in different periods in your life. Intense stress, like having a child, can increase the risk of falling into depression. It is just as important for the non-birthing parent to receive treatment for depression as it is for the birthing parent.
Depression during pregnancy
5-10% of all pregnant women already have depression during pregnancy. It may be difficult to distinguish between mild or moderate depression symptoms from pregnant symptoms, but if you are unsure, seek medical attention or a psychologist for assessment.
Help during depression
There is very effective treatment for depression. Feelings of hope, shame and inferiority belong to the disease. Don’t let it stop you from seeking help!
The midwife or nurse is a good first contact in case of mild or moderate depression. Do not wait until she asks when the baby is 2 months – talk about what you are thinking and feeling as soon as possible. The health or medical center is another good option.
If depression is more severe, with severe anxiety, severe difficulty sleeping or suicidal thoughts – seek help directly at the emergency psychiatry ward. Contact information can be found at 1177.se (in Sweden). In many counties there is an emergency telephone number where you can call for advice.
If you or someone close to you is so severely depressed that you think it would probably be best for your family that you take your life, the depression is so severe that you should go directly to the psychiatric emergency room.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for postpartum depression
In mild to moderate depression, psychological treatment in the form of CBT alone or with medicines takes precedence. An easy way to access CBT in Sweden is internetpsykiatri.se .
Antidepressants (SSRIs) in pregnancy and postpartum depression
SSRI, such as sertraline, is a type of antidepressant that has a good effect against depression. Many are reluctant to take SSRIs during pregnancy and lactation for fear of causing side effects to the baby. It’s a fear that hurts more than it helps.
It is established that SSRIs are a safe drug treatment during pregnancy. With some preparations, there is a risk of tremor and low blood sugar after childbirth, but this is transient.
It is also established that SSRIs are a safe drug treatment during lactation.
Sleep in postpartum depression
In all depressions, sleep is important for recovery and healing. You often find it difficult to sleep from the depression, and if you have a baby at home, it can be very difficult to get any good sleep.
At this stage, it is important to prioritise and organise. If there is a non-depressed parent, then they are encouraged to take care of the child at night. If this isn’t possible, then rally your network – grandparents, friends… Ask for help.
Hypnotics may also be necessary in the more acute phases of depression. Ask for a variant that is non-addictive. Do not sleep in the same bed as your child after taking sleeping pills.
Sick leave during postpartum depression
In postpartum depression, usually you do not have the energy to take care of your baby yourself, and you need to sleep at night. That’s when you need to be sick from your parental leave so that someone else (usually the other parent) can go in and be on parental leave. Ask the health center doctor for sick leave while you ask for treatment and help.
Life as a new parent can sometimes be difficult. It’s new and tumultuous, but it should not feel mostly heavy and hopeless. When it does, that’s when you need to seek help – for your own sake and for the child.