Postpartum depression (PPD) generally occurs within the first week after delivery and can become severe if not addressed. Baby blues and postpartum depression are often thought to be the same, but there are differences. Baby blues is a relatively common and mild form of PPD. PPD, on the other hand, can interfere with daily function and even lead to psychosis.
Baby blues and PPD do have similar symptoms. Crying episodes, mood swings, insomnia, and irritability are just a few. Baby blues can be frustrating for a new mom expecting to feel thrilled with a new baby. But PPD can become severe, last weeks if not months, and become a serious problem.
Some of the causes of PPD include having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit or a history of depression. Lack of a support system or struggling with marriage or other relationships can also increase the risk of PPD. Even experiencing stressful life events or smoking while pregnant can contribute to PPD.
Women undergoing IVF may experience some of these risk factors in conjunction with infertility treatments. When struggling with infertility, women may experience feelings of inadequacy or low self-esteem leading to stress or depression before conception. Because IVF increases the chance of multiple births, fertility treatment can also increase the risk of PPD. The reasons IVF was required may also increase the risk of premature delivery and a stay in the NICU.
While women conceiving through IVF share some risk factors for PPD, there can be characteristics that help avoid baby blues. IVF patients are more often Caucasian, older, have higher education, fewer life stressors, and a stronger support system. Women undergoing infertility treatments may also be more resilient simply due to the stress endured in trying to conceive.
PPD must be seen as a complication of childbirth. Whether a woman has experienced IVF or has risk factors for PPD, watching for symptoms of depression is important. New mothers often hesitate to talk about feeling depressed since having a baby is supposed to be a happy time. Women at risk should begin receiving psychological counseling and support while still pregnant.
Baby blues or PPD may require medical intervention, therefore, family and friends must be aware. Providing support and encouraging the new mother or father to seek professional help is key to successful treatment. Anti-depressants or therapy may be necessary to assist the new mother in recovering from PPD. Any women experiencing PPD should speak with a healthcare provider to find treatment options.