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Women often ask this question, probably to make sure they're getting the right diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms. When postpartum depression (PPD) is misdiagnosed, however, it's usually dismissed completely, not confused with "regular" depression.
"Regular" depression and PPD, two forms of clinical depression, share a number of symptoms. But regular depression is unrelated to childbirth, while PPD occurs after the birth of a baby. PPD is usually diagnosed within a year after giving birth but can extend beyond that.
Certain characteristics distinguish PPD from depression that's unrelated to childbirth. In addition to typical symptoms of depression — sleep and appetite disturbance, anxiety, weepiness, hopelessness, loss of concentration, loss of sexual interest, and social withdrawal, for instance — a woman with PPD may be:
- transitioning to motherhood and dealing with the psychological adjustment
- hormonally unsteady
- breastfeeding or weaning
- experiencing worrisome thoughts about her baby or her ability to be a good mother
- consumed with guilt and disappointment about what's supposed to be the "best time of her life."
It's hard enough to struggle through a clinical depression. But when you're doing so with an infant, a toddler, or a few children to care for, your situation may seem unbearable.
If needed, a doctor will prescribe the same antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications for PPD as for depression that's unrelated to childbirth. But with PPD, experts also encourage supportive psychotherapy to address the specific needs of a mom coming to grips with both her depression and her new baby.
If you recently had a baby and you think you're depressed, there's no need to continue suffering. Find a healthcare professional to treat your depression. If your doctor doesn't seem to understand what's happening with you, or you feel dismissed in any way, find a good therapist who can walk you through these difficult days and help you heal.