Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Depression

Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum DepressionNew mothers endure a range of emotions after the birth of a child: joy, anxiety, fear, overwhelming relief, happiness – the list is as varied as the families who experience childbirth. Many mothers, though, suffer from the “baby blues.” The baby blues are sadness after the birth of a child, and they are perfectly normal.

When the baby blues last for longer than a few weeks, however, or increase in severity over time, the mother could be suffering with postpartum depression, or PPD. Postpartum depression can make it difficult for the mother to care for her child, enjoy her life with her family, and lead a normal life.

Postpartum depression symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in nine mothers suffer

postpartum depression. Some women don’t begin to experience the condition until months after the child is delivered. Common symptoms of PPD include:

  • Long-term depression
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Altered sleeping habits
  • Changed eating habits
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Constant fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks and anxiety
  • Feeling guilty
  • Negative thoughts about the baby

In severe cases, called postpartum psychosis, mothers can hallucinate and develop paranoia.

Why does postpartum depression happen?

The National Institute of Mental Health states that there is no one definitive cause of postpartum depression. It varies from state to state, and women of all ages, races and cultures experience the symptoms. The one thing NIMH is very clear about this: PPD is not the fault of the new mother. It can be brought on by hormonal changes coupled with stress or a history of depression. It could be the result of the new mother not having the support she needs, or feels she needs, to care for her child. It could happen to a new mother whose pregnancy and delivery went off without a hitch, who has no outside stressful events, and whose baby is perfectly healthy and happy.

It can also happen to fathers, though the percentage is much lower. According to the NIMH, about 4% of all fathers will experience depression within the first year of their children’s births, and up to 20% will struggle with depressive episodes by the time the children reach the age of 12.

What constitutes medical error in PPD care

Because there is no test for postpartum depression, there is no way to tell for sure whether a mother will suffer with it or not. There are, however, signs and risk factors that could indicate an increased chance of a mother suffering with PPD. Doctors, nurses, specialists and other medical professionals should be aware of these risks, and monitor the new mother. Parents should be informed of the risks and symptoms, so they know what to look for in case those symptoms do not occur until much later after the child is born. This is especially important if the mother exhibits or expresses suicidal thoughts of behaviors, or if she puts the health and safety of the child at risk.

Most cases of PPD and postpartum psychosis can be treated if there is timely and quality medical treatment. Doctors who fail to inform parents of the risks, monitor the mother for signs, or inadequately treat PPD may be held liable for medical malpractice. Obstetricians, pregnancy physicians, and birth doctors have a duty to inform the mother that postpartum depression is a likely result of their post-delivery process.

Doctors who fail to provide the quality of healthcare that reasonable doctors in their profession would have given can be held liable for medical malpractice. To learn if you have a case, contact the Memphis medical malpractice lawyers at Bailey & Greer, PLLC. Our experienced lawyers can be reached at 901-680-9777 or by using our contact form. We are strong advocates for mothers and children affected by medical malpractice. We have offices in Memphis and Jackson, and serve clients throughout West Tennessee.

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