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Postpartum depression (PPD) is a spectrum of mood disorders that affects women after giving birth. The changes in hormone balance after pregnancy are thought to be among the causes, and because of the symptoms of postpartum depression, it can be a very difficult condition to cope with.
Postpartum depression is not the mother’s fault. It is a result of a number of factors, including significant drops in the levels of some hormones after birth and sleep deprivation. Many mothers experience postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.
The baby blues, as it is sometimes erroneously known, is a typical reaction to the extreme changes in a person’s life after giving birth. Postpartum depression is the extreme end of the spectrum, and typically manifests itself as feelings of anxiety, fatigue, exhaustion, panic attacks and extreme sadness. Providing care for your baby when you are feeling like this is extremely difficult, and there have even been cases of postpartum depression that have lead to mothers killing their babies.
As with all mental health conditions, the signs of postpartum depression are various and varied in intensity. This form of depression can range from feeling low and uninterested in things, to postpartum psychosis leading to violence and extreme irrationality. This sometimes results in the detaining of the mother by the mental health agencies for the safety of herself and others.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, call your doctor. Postpartum depression is treatable but if left untreated, can have very severe consequences. If in doubt, talk to your doctor.
Only a qualified doctor or medical professional can give a definitive diagnosis. It is very important that during pregnancy, your doctor makes you aware of the risks of depression after giving birth and prepares you for it. If you think you have signs of postpartum depression, talk to your doctor.
Treating Postpartum Depression
The most common treatment for postpartum depression is talking therapy, or counselling. Talking with a trained mental health professional about your problems can help put them in perspective, help you find ways to avoid those ways of thinking, and help you deal with the signs of postpartum depression.
Two particularly successful methods of treating postpartum depression are cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal therapy. Both have a proven track record and are tailored to the individual. Local and online support groups are also very popular.
The amount of support available for mothers who are struggling after their baby is born is very reassuring. There is a lot of help available, both online and in person, so talk to your doctor and see what support there is for you. Postpartum progress is possible.
Taking antidepressants can help regulate mood in this form of depression, but they can take a long time to take proper effect, and while many are considered safe during breastfeeding, there could be long term effects that have not been established for the baby. If it is the difference between caring for your baby and not doing so, they are worth the relatively small risk. However, most mothers want the development of their baby to be as risk free as possible, so do look for alternatives.
There is a lot of anecdotal evidence pointing both ways when it comes to marijuana for postpartum depression. There have been no studies into the use of the drug for treatment of postpartum depression. Because of this, and the potential risks to the baby’s health, it cannot be recommended.
Marijuana does have some mood stabilizing effects. Especially one of the extracts, CBD. However, if a mother is breastfeeding, she is transferring a small amount of whatever she is taking for her depression to her baby. The long term effects of cannabinoids in breast milk is completely unknown. Cannabis might have a positive effect on the mother, but it is a gamble for the baby.
Smoking anything while pregnant or breastfeeding is a disastrous and dangerous choice. It has clear and well established negative effects on the baby’s development. Smoking cannabis is strongly recommended against by the American Pediatric Association.
Using marijuana in pregnancy is a well-established trend, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is not recommended as “prenatal marijuana exposure may be associated with poor offspring outcomes”. This is before giving birth, but it gives enough of an indication as to the effects of cannabinoids on developing brains to raise serious concerns about using marijuana for postpartum depression.
For mothers who are not breastfeeding, the risks are different. Cannabis is known to be helpful in treating depression for some people, but not for others. If a mother has used cannabis successfully in the past and is not breastfeeding the child, the risks are better understood. This does not make it a good choice, with the attendant risks of taking cannabis regularly, but it remains an option.
In short, nobody knows what the effects of cannabis use for sleep deprived, highly hormonal, postpartum mothers are. It is easy to find positive anecdotal evidence, but when dealing with an issue as serious as this, that is not enough.
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