Having a newborn baby is often romanticized as a magical and blissful time, filled with smiles, cuddles, and that new baby smell. For many parents, however, the reality is much more difficult.
Although it’s not as openly talked about as it should be, peripartum depression — also known as postpartum depression — is incredibly common among new parents. If your mental health is suffering during pregnancy or after giving birth, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to resign yourself to living with the symptoms. TMS for postpartum depression is a safe, effective, and drug-free treatment that has helped many new parents get back to enjoying this precious time with their newborns.
Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about postpartum depression, including common signs, postpartum depression symptoms, and what your treatment options are if you think you may be experiencing it.
Postpartum depression is a depressive disorder that people experience after childbirth. It’s also sometimes called perinatal depression or peripartum depression (because its symptoms can appear both before and after childbirth). For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the term “postpartum depression,” or PPD.
People may experience postpartum depression symptoms during their pregnancy, or after giving birth. Although the diagnostic criteria state that symptoms come on within four weeks of giving birth, many experts argue that people can experience symptoms of postpartum depression up to a year after their baby is born.
There’s a difference between the “baby blues” and postpartum depression. Baby blues, or feeling down or exhausted after your baby is born, happens to almost all new parents to some degree and typically goes away on its own.
While also common, peripartum depression is a serious mental health condition that requires treatment. If you thought you were experiencing the “baby blues,” but you’ve noticed that the symptoms have gotten worse or haven’t gone away in over a week, it may be time to talk to a healthcare provider about what you’re feeling.
If you think you may be facing postpartum depression, know that you’re not alone.
Although not every parent will experience postpartum depression, it’s a lot more common than people are led to believe. Up to 1 in 7 women experience PPD, and around half of those diagnosed have never experienced any symptoms of depression until the perinatal episode. Postpartum depression is the most common psychological complication of childbirth.
People of any gender can experience peripartum depression (especially if they have given birth), and studies have found that up to 10% of fathers experience some symptoms of depression after their child is born.
Stigma keeps people from talking about postpartum depression, which makes new parents feel like something is “wrong” with them for experiencing these symptoms. But having PPD doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, and you’re far from the only person struggling with new parenthood.
Postpartum depression shares symptoms with major depressive disorder; the difference is that PPD comes on during pregnancy or after giving birth. The official symptoms of major depressive disorder as stated in the DSM-V include:
- A depressed, sad mood or severe mood swings
- A loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Changes in appetite or eating habits
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Trouble focusing
- Feeling worthlessness, hopelessness, or guilt
- Having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby
If you’re having serious thoughts about ending your life or harming yourself or your baby, it’s critical that you get connected with emergency mental health services right away. You can contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800- 273-TALK or visit your nearest emergency room.
On top of these symptoms, there are some other common signs of postpartum depression to watch out for. Have you:
- Had trouble bonding with your newborn?
- Felt a lack of confidence when it comes to parenting?
- Had thoughts or fears about hurting your baby, either intentionally or accidentally?
- Been crying a lot more than usual?
- Felt completely overwhelmed at the idea of parenthood?
- Felt like your baby is someone else’s baby, not your own?
All of these may be signs that you’re suffering from postpartum depression, especially when coupled with the symptoms of major depressive disorder. If you’ve experienced these signs and symptoms after giving birth, it’s important that you tell your midwife, therapist, or healthcare provider right away. PPD can get worse and worse when left untreated.
First of all, it’s important to know that PPD is not your fault. Many new parents blame themselves for the way they feel, but the fact is that postpartum depression can affect anyone.
There are several factors that can contribute to depression during pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Hormonal changes that come along with pregnancy can affect people’s mood and overall mental health. After you’ve given birth, you experience a dramatic decrease in certain hormones, including estrogen and progesterone. Your thyroid may also stop producing as many hormones as usual. All of this combined can lead to fatigue, sluggishness, and other depression symptoms.
The stress of being pregnant or having a newborn can also contribute to postpartum depression. Having a baby makes it hard to get enough restful sleep at night, and being sleep-deprived worsens overall mental health. Changes in your physical appearance and a loss of your pre-pregnancy identity can also make you feel depressed.
There are other risk factors that may make some people more vulnerable to postpartum depression. These include:
- Having a personal or family history of mood disorders, including depression and bipolar disorder
- Not having a strong social support network
- Being a teenage parent (younger than the age of 20)
- Having significant money or employment stresses in your life
- Having had a difficult pregnancy or birth in the past
- Having difficulty breastfeeding
- Having a child with special needs
- Struggling with substance use disorder (drug and/or alcohol addiction)
If you or a loved one are going through postpartum depression, there is hope for recovery. There are many evidence-based treatments that have been shown to help people find relief from postpartum depression and start feeling great about being a new parent.
Two of the most widely recommended types of postpartum depression treatment are antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. While both of these are effective treatments for postpartum depression, they may not be a good fit for everyone.
Many people are reluctant to start a new medication so soon after giving birth for a variety of reasons, including concerns about breastfeeding safety and potential side effects. Although psychotherapy doesn’t come with these risks, new parents may find it difficult to find the time to commit to going to therapy long-term.
TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, is a safe, drug-free, and effective treatment for postpartum depression. This innovative treatment offers an alternative for people with PPD who, for whatever reason, have decided that medication and therapy aren’t good options for them.
TMS is a brain-stimulation therapy. TMS is delivered through electromagnetic coils placed in strategic spots on the scalp; the technology is similar to that used in an MRI scan. These coils deliver painless micropulses to stimulate certain regions of your brain that are affected by depression.
TMS is FDA-approved as a safe and effective depression treatment. It’s been shown to be especially helpful for treatment-resistant depression. In other words, people who have tried traditional treatment methods (like medication or psychotherapy) with little or no results have a good chance of seeing better results with TMS.
The initial research that’s available has supported the use of TMS for postpartum depression. A pilot study conducted back in 2010 showed promising results for the effectiveness of TMS for postpartum depression. Another study published in 2020 found that TMS was safe and well-tolerated among all participants, and that it decreased scores for both anxiety and depression.
Although randomized control studies need to be conducted to establish definitively that TMS is an effective treatment for postpartum depression, it has so far shown itself to be exactly that 一 especially for people who are reluctant to take medication.
Only you and your healthcare provider can decide whether or not TMS is the right treatment choice for you. If you’re considering it, some of the benefits of TMS for postpartum depression to take into account include:
- It’s safe in almost all cases. TMS has a very low risk of seizure and other serious side effects.
- Mild side effects. If you’re worried about the side effects of psychiatric medication, TMS may be a good treatment choice for you. Side effects are usually mild and temporary.
- No effect on breastmilk. Some people worry about exposing their fetus or breastfed baby to the psychiatric medications they take. TMS doesn’t carry these risks, and there will be no effect on your baby.
- It’s fast. TMS therapy has been shown to be effective in as little as two weeks. That means that you can start enjoying bonding with your baby as soon as possible.
If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, there is hope. Contact us today to discuss how we might be able to help. Our experienced therapists and TMS technicians are ready to walk with you on this journey, so that you can get past this complication and start embracing all the joys of new parenthood.
Cox, E. Q., Killenberg, S., Frische, R., McClure, R., Hill, M., Jenson, J., Pearson, B., & Meltzer-Brody, S. E. (2020). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation for the treatment of postpartum depression. Journal of affective disorders, 264, 193–200. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.11.069
Garcia, K. S., Flynn, P., Pierce, K. J., & Caudle, M. (2010). Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treats postpartum depression. Brain stimulation, 3(1), 36–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brs.2009.06.001
Mayo Clinic (n.d.). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/symptoms-causes/syc-20376617?p=1
National Institute of Mental Health (n.d.). Perinatal Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression
Office on Women’s Health (2019). Postpartum Depression. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression
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