Many women experience some mood changes after childbirth. The mild form of mood alteration experienced by two-thirds of mothers following the birth of a child is commonly known as postpartum blues. This is a mild, transient change in mood which usually begins within one to five days following delivery, lasts a few days to a couple of weeks, and does not require treatment. True depression is different from postpartum blues. The potentially severe depression that can occur following both childbirth and unsuccessful pregnancies, including spontaneous and voluntary abortions, is known as postpartum depression. Women may have difficulty in distinguishing where postpartum blues end and postpartum depression begins, because new mothers are often sleep-deprived, fatigued, and preoccupied with the constant care of their newborn and may not initially note the progression of their symptoms from mild to severe.
[...] The investigators concluded that the response was similar to that associated with posttraumatic stress response flashbacks and reflected a neurological kindling triggered by the normative events of childbearing. (p. 55) Mason et al (2005)'s own study found a correlation between prior abuse of the mother and cognitions which led to stress reactions. Hospitalization was mentally associated with victimization and a loss of control, as was the pain of labor and the birthing process. The daily struggle of raising a new infant led them to feel isolated and without support networks. [...]
[...] The implications for healthcare are perhaps clearer than the exact influence stress has on postpartum depression: a multidisciplinary, holistic view of postpartum depression is needed. Postpartum depression and birth Postpartum depression is a disorder that actually directly impacts not only the mother, but the infant. Birth is a catalyst for postpartum depression, but the relationship between the birth process and infant health is not always clear. Conway and Kennedy (2004) ask: "Ample evidence exists in the medical literature that maternal depression is associated with poor infant and child health and development. [...]
[...] While the exact cause of the depression is obscured by the multiplicity of possible causes and variables, policy considerations are likely to be singular regardless of the origin of the disorder in women with substance abuse problems. The study concludes "The need for treatment programs to accommodate women and their children is borne out in this study with the demonstration that child custody and gender sensitive treatment programs are more successful in retaining women in treatment." (Nishimoto and Roberts 2001, p. [...]
[...] Late-onset postpartum depression appears several weeks after the birth, and involves the insidious development of feelings of intense sadness, depression, chronic fatigue, lack of energy, inability to sleep, appetite and weight changes, loss of sexual drive, difficulty in concentrating, and, occasionally, physical symptoms such as hair loss. Delusions, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and homicidal thoughts (toward the newborn and other children) can occur in the most severe cases. Homicidal thoughts toward children may be based on a psychotic notion of protecting them from the dangers of life, especially if the mother is contemplating suicide and believes that she will not be around to care for her child. [...]
[...] However, "correlational studies in the public health literature show that women who are employed postpartum or who return to work soon after childbirth experience more mental and physical health symptoms than other women perhaps because of increased stress and obligations." (Chatterji and Markowitz 2005, p. 16) On the other hand, "increasing maternal leave by one week is associated with a decline in depressive symptoms." (Chatterji and Markowitz 2005, p. 23) This variable and the related stressors are, of course, related to socio- economic status. [...]
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