Postpartum Depression and Suicide
by Kevin Caruso
"After two months of suffering from severe anxiety attacks, feeling very, very sad but not really being able to cry and not being able to talk to anyone, I thought I must be losing my mind. I wanted to end it all. I thought my husband, new baby and four kids would be better off without me. I didn't really want to die. I didn't want to live either if I was going to be like this," said Laura Cincotta, who suffered from postpartum depression. "I was crying out for help and no one could tell me what I had or how to treat it. I asked to be put in the hospital. I can absolutely understand how women can tragically lose their lives to this horrible but treatable illness. I feel fortunate that I found help."
Those words sum up very well what a woman with postpartum depression can experience. And, unfortunately, postpartum depression is quite common, with 10 to 15 percent of women experiencing it..
Women usually begin to experience postpartum depression within the first two weeks after childbirth. However, symptoms may not appear for up to one year after childbirth.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Intense sadness
- Strong mood swings
- Frequent crying
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling exhausted
- Inability to concentrate
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Feeling hopeless
- Losing interest in activities
- Anxiety attacks
- Panic attacks
- Headaches and chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Eating too much or too little
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Suicidal thoughts
Many women who experience postpartum depression do not know what is wrong with them so they do not ask for help. Others believe that they need help, but are disinclined to seek it because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
It should be noted that postpartum depression is much more serious than the extremely common "baby blues." The baby blues will affect between 70 to 80 percent of women after childbirth, with symptoms usually developing within the first four days after delivery.
The symptoms of the baby blues include sadness, irritability, frequent crying, and exhaustion. But these symptoms typically only last a few days.
If you think you have the "baby blues" but the symptoms persist, you need to see your doctor immediately.
It should also be noted that there is a relatively rare condition known as postpartum psychosis which is much more serious than postpartum depression.
About one in one thousand women will develop postpartum psychosis, with symptoms usually occurring within two weeks. The symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and quick mood swings. Essentially, women with postpartum psychosis lose touch with reality. And they are at an extremely high risk for suicide and for infanticide.
Steps that pregnant women may take to help prevent or minimize problems associated with postpartum depression (or related disorders) include:
- Learn as much as possible about postpartum depression and related postpartum disorders.
- See a doctor regularly before, during, and after delivery.
- See a therapist regularly before, during, and after delivery. By seeing a therapist as well as a doctor, one more professional will be involved who may spot symptoms. Remember that postpartum disorders are very common, so the best strategy is to be proactive.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep your stress level as low as possible
- Establish a strong support network with friends and family members that will be prepared to help at any juncture.
- After delivery, honestly communicate how you feel on a daily basis with key members in your support group.
- Get help immediately if you believe you are experiencing postpartum depression or a related disorder.
Please remember that untreated depression - including untreated postpartum depression - is the number one cause for suicide.
If you need help, get it immediately.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, please visit the Home Page of this website and take action.