Depression in Women
- What is depression?
- How can I tell the difference between just being down and being depressed?
- What are some of the psychological symptoms of depression?
- What are some of the physical symptoms of depression?
- Why do some women become depressed after giving birth?
- What is postnatal depression?
- What are the main risk factors when it comes to postnatal depression?
- What about depression and the menopause?
- My mother has just had a hysterectomy. Is she likely to become depressed?
What is depression?
Everyone of us knows what it feels like to be 'down in the dumps' or sad. We may even refer to ourselves as 'feeling depressed'.
However depression is a very serious condition which can affect a person both mentally and physically.
When a person feels down or sad, these feelings usually pass relatively quickly. However depression is when these feelings go on for at least a few weeks, affecting all parts of the person's life.
Depression can affect every part of your life, from the way you sleep to the way you act around your friends.
Depressed people cannot 'snap out of this condition' or 'pull themselves together'. They need professional help. Therefore if you or somebody you knows is showing signs of depression, consult your doctor immediately. Do not suffer depression in silence hoping it will just go away on its own.
Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.
How can I tell the difference between just being down and being depressed?
Everybody feels down at some stage, however low moods are thought of as depression if they persist and affect all parts of your life.
If you have symptoms of depression, which last for most of the day for at least two weeks, you should consult your doctor immediately.
What are some of the psychological symptoms of depression?
- Low mood.
- Depressive thinking.
- Emotional numbness.
- Lack or loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
- Concentration and memory problems.
- Delusions or hallucinations.
- Feelings of guilt or shame.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Lack of motivation.
- Suicidal or self-harming thoughts.
- Thoughts of death.
What are some of the physical symptoms of depression?
- Increase or decrease in appetite.
- Increase or decrease in weight.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Sleeping problems (this can include too much sleep or having trouble getting to sleep or early morning waking).
- Period irregularities.
- Recurrent headaches that don't go away with treatment.
- Other physical symptoms such as abdominal pain.
Why do some women become depressed after giving birth?
After giving birth, a woman's hormones experience dramatic changes. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone, which were extremely high in pregnancy, drop dramatically after the birth. This sudden change can sometimes trigger depression.
Around half of all new mothers experience 'maternity blues' in the week immediately after the birth. The new mother may feel weepy and irritable.
This is completely normal and usually she is back to herself within a few days. In the meantime, try to be as supportive and understanding as possible.
However some women develop a more serious condition; postnatal depression.
What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is a form of depression that is quite common after childbirth.
- Mild or moderate postnatal depression: The most common (and least severe) type of postnatal depression occurs between two weeks and one year after the birth. Symptoms can include tiredness, irritability, anxiousness and feelings of guilt. Sometimes these feelings arise when the attention of family and friends starts to decrease. Medical treatment should be sought as women who seek treatment are likely to make a full recovery. Women who do not seek treatment are more likely to suffer prolonged symptoms. only have a 50:50 chance of feeling better by the child's first birthday.
- Severe postnatal depression: The severest type of postnatal depression occurs soon after the birth. This is a rare form of postnatal depression, which affects only a minority of women. It usually occurs within two weeks of the birth and is more common in first time mothers and women who have had a mental illness or servere postnatal depression in the past. before. With severe postnatal depression, the woman may experience intense symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. With this form of depression, there is a real risk to the safety of the baby. Medical treatment is always necessary for this form of depression and admission to hospital is usually necessary.
What are the main risk factors when it comes to postnatal depression?
While no one thing factor can definitely cause someone to develop postnatal depression, there are a number of factors which may put certain women more at risk than others. These include:
- Uncertainty whether she wants the baby.
- Having serious financial problems.
- Being a single parent.
- Having had fertility problems.
- Having had a past psychiatric illness.
- If psychiatric illness runs in your family.
- Mild to moderate anxiety during the pregnancy, especially during the last three months.
- Worries about the baby's health.
- Having a child when very young or over the age of 35.
- A difficult labour.
After the baby is born, the risk factors include:
- Having had a premature baby.
- Having a physical illness.
- Lack of support from those around you, especially from your partner.
- Social isolation.
- Returning to work at a lower level of seniority.
What about depression and the menopause?
Many women seek help for depression when they become middle-aged. Some doctors believe this is because of the menopause, believing that hormone changes during the menopause can trigger depression.
However there is no reliable evidence which proves that depression is caused by the hormonal changes associated with the menopause. more common as a result of the menopause. While it can play a role, it is more likely that it is just one of a number of factors which triggers depression at this time of life, for example their children may leave home or there may be a change in the relationship with a spouse or their partner.
My mother has just had a hysterectomy. Is she likely to become depressed?
It is unknown whether depression is more likely in women who have had hysterectomies or been sterilised. In the past, research claimed that women were more likely to get depressed after a hysterectomy, however more recent research has cast doubt on this.
If your mother is already predisposed to psychiatric illness, for example if it runs in her family, she may be more at risk of developing depression after a hysterectomy.
However if this is not the case, then there is a good chance that she won't develop depression.
In fact some experts have pointed out that there are women who actually recover from psychiatric symptoms after a hysterectomy.
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