4 Differences Between Clinical Depression and Post-Partum Depression

4 Differences Between Clinical Depression and Post-Partum Depression

Post-partum and clinical depression share many characteristics, but they also have some notable differences. Ultimately, the two problems are different versions of depression, as mothers who struggle with post-partum or clinical depression are likely to feel, think and do the same things. However, the two problems are often treated differently, as post-partum depression can come with some added and more difficult issues.

First off, a major difference between the two different versions of depression is that post-partum depression can only occur in mothers who have recently given birth. Clinical depression can be experienced by anyone of any gender or age, but post-partum depression directly stems from delivering a child. Furthermore, the depressive symptoms must last more than two weeks and be coupled with thoughts of harming the baby. Within the first two weeks of childbirth, the “baby blues” can be common, because mothers may feel some depressive symptoms that go away after two weeks. Anything longer than two weeks may likely be post-partum depression, but this condition may not even develop until up to 6 months after the birth of the child. The symptoms of post-partum depression will be more intense and severe than those of the baby blues, they will cause mothers to fail at daily tasks and it will interfere with her ability to care for her child1.

Second, post-partum depression is linked to adjusting poorly to the new demands of motherhood. Becoming a mother adds a thousand responsibilities and adjustments to life, which can be too much for someone to handle. If the mind cannot adjust, then it will recoil with post-partum depression, which will add symptoms that would not occur with the clinical condition. Mothers will likely have difficulty bonding with their newborn babies if they are depressed, so they will likely try to avoid their babies as much as possible. In fact, post-partum depression will likely cause mothers to think they are poor mothers, when the unknown depression is actually causing them problems in the first place. However, until mothers know they are struggling with this debilitating issue, they will have the added stress of thinking they are bad parents. That fact is clearly false, as bad parents never worry that they are bad, so post-partum depression is simply a disorder that causes mothers to doubt themselves.

Third, a major difference between clinical and post-partum depression is that a depressed mother may have the scary circumstance of wanting to harm her baby. Clinical depression may cause a mother to think about harming herself, and even post-partum depression can cause thoughts of self-harm, but post latter problem may be so strong that mothers have uncontrollable thoughts of harming their infants. A situation this horrible makes it imperative to recognize and treat it as quickly as possible. The friends and family member who surround a mother with post-partum depression will probably be unable to know whether or not she is thinking about harming the baby, but they can recognize the symptoms of depression in the mother, because those problems will be almost impossible for her to hide.

The fourth difference between post-partum and clinical depression is that the former problem will get even worse when mothers struggle with guilt over whether or not they are poor parents. When people think about a mother giving birth they think about how it is such a joyous occasion as it should be. So, when a mother is unknowingly struggling with post-partum depression, and she knows she is uncontrollably sad about motherhood, then she may feel guilty. Of course, it is not her fault that she is unhappy about being a mother, as she is struggling with a depressive disorder. But, when a mother is unaware of her disorder, then she cannot understand why she is unhappy about her new child and the guilt that follows. The resulting combination can be difficult to deal with, so these women need help as soon as possible to recover.

Health care providers are becoming more and more aware of the prominence of post-partum depression, so they are adjusting to catch it earlier in its development. Many healthcare providers look for risk factors as early as the first prenatal visit: they often provide questionnaires for new mothers to fill out so they can determine if any risk factors exist for post-partum depression. Health care providers also constantly evaluate the mood of mothers throughout pregnancy and six weeks after delivery2. With this help, mothers can address their symptoms as soon as they form. In fact, you can recover if you have support to know what ails you.

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1 The Mayo Clinic Staff, “Postpartum Depression,” The Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/postpartum-depression/basics/symptoms/con-20029130, (August 11, 2015).

2 Reviewed by Todd, Nivin, MD., “Understanding Postpartum Depression,” WebMD, http://www.m.webmd.com/depression/understanding-postpartum-depression-treatment, (Cited February 21, 2016).