The arrival of a brand new baby is like no other experience in life. No matter whether a pregnancy is planned and long-anticipated, or virtually unexpected, parents are often overwhelmed with a myriad of powerful emotions. The intensity of these emotions cannot be compared with any other life changing event. It is not uncommon in the initial period following childbirth for a new mother to experience what has traditionally been referred to as the "baby blues," and for new fathers to experience emotional upheavals of their own as well. Historically parents felt it necessary to suppress feelings of overwhelming sadness, or inability to cope due to fear of being viewed as week, or neurotic. In recent years however much attention has been given to a more serious condition known as postpartum depression. This paper will define postpartum depression, the pathology and origins of the disorder, as well as presenting symptoms and the criteria used for diagnosis. It will identify those at risk, and finally discuss current treatment, nursing management, and prevention.
More severe and longer lasting than what is typical for the baby blues, postpartum depression (or PPD) is a period of depression that begins after the birth of a child and lasts for a duration longer than two weeks. PPD is now considered the leading complication of childbirth with up to 19% of all mothers experiencing symptoms ranging from mild to moderate in the first 3 months of following birth (Murray & McKinney, 2010). Unlike the baby blues, symptoms associated with PPD tend to become worse overtime. PPD is more likely to occur in first time mothers but can develop after any pregnancy, and new research is suggests that men can be afflicted as well. .
There is no single cause of PPD but factors that are known to increase the risk include depression during pregnancy, or a history of PPD with a previous pregnancy, first pregnancy, fatigue, hormonal fluctuations, medical complications associated with the pregnancy, personal or family history of mental illness, and certain personality traits such as low self-esteem, or immaturity.