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The Connection Between Substance Abuse and Postpartum Depression


Postpartum depression may be apparent in the next twelve weeks after one has given birth. Unfortunately, substance abuse and postpartum depression are a familiar and recurrent pairing. Study shows that postpartum drug and alcohol use is higher among pregnant and postpartum women. The intense hormones and emotions that women experience after pregnancy can be overwhelming, making them more prone to depression. What exactly is postpartum depression, and how is substance abuse related to the issue at hand?

What is postpartum depression?

After delivery, high hormonal shifts arise among women. A misconception for postpartum women is that giving birth to a baby can automatically equate to joy and contentment. In reality, almost 80% of women experience postpartum depression or other similar serious conditions. Progesterone and estrogen levels drop, and mothers may also experience mild to severe mental health issues. This can eventually lead to the mother’s difficulty in emotionally connecting with the child and meeting their needs.

Some might mistake the baby blues as postpartum depression, so it is essential to identify what you might be going through. Unlike baby blues, postpartum depression is a much more severe case. It might include symptoms such as intense mood shifts, insomnia or hypersomnia, losing interest in the usual day-to-day activities, memory problems, trouble with decision-making, fatigue, appetite changes, extreme feelings of anxiety, anger, restlessness, sadness, and much more.

Suppose postpartum depression is present, it may also affect the people surrounding the mother, especially the partner or child. These symptoms are usually common after giving birth. Thus, it is necessary to consult your doctor and monitor your existing symptoms or behavior.

What are the effects of substance abuse and postpartum depression on women?

The trials and difficulties of having a baby may be too overwhelming for most new mothers. It is common for them to experience mental health struggles that can affect their decision-making as well. This makes them more vulnerable to substance abuse to cope with the intense emotions they have been going through after giving birth. According to the data presented by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), about 9% of postpartum women aged 15 to 44 years old fall into illegal drug use and binge drinking.

The use of drugs can be the mother’s way of staying energized and awake for a few days. Doing so helps them accomplish what they need to do to take care of their newborn babies all day and all night. Situations like this are often the case for women left to take care of their child without a partner or support system. Several external factors may also profoundly affect how the mother will cope with her newborn while experiencing postpartum depression. This leads the mother to become incredibly dependent on the abuse of substances.

Also, the misuse of substances can give them an instant and temporary escape or relaxation. Taking care of a newborn is a demanding and exhausting job one needs to do every day. With postpartum depression, women may experience problems with falling asleep. Therefore, they may use drugs to solve their issues since this allows them to fall asleep easily.

girl with therapist

Other than that, addiction can eventually lead to severe health issues for new mothers and their babies. The abuse of drugs can inflict irreversible complications to their child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drugs like heroin, amphetamine, and cocaine can cause a long list of difficulties for infants who breastfeed. Moreover, the mothers who cling to drugs to help them cope with raising a child may make things worse as the child becomes more irritable because of the exposure to drugs.

On top of that, the demands of the drug abuse and the baby may become unbearable for the mother, which can lead to the mother’s failure to care for the child effectively. Study shows that drug abuse is a major factor in almost 70% of child maltreatment cases. To avoid this, mothers should seek drug abuse rehabilitation.

What are the risk factors for postpartum depression and substance abuse?

Newborn babies can be extremely demanding. The parents will need to take care of their needs without rest ceaselessly. The exhaustion that comes with taking care of a child can put the mother at risk of mental health complications. Furthermore, women who already have a history of depression or experienced stress because of pregnancy issues and other external factors may have a higher than average risk of experiencing postpartum depression.

Apart from this, women who have weak support systems, problems with their partners, a stressful environment, financial struggles, or unplanned pregnancies are also more vulnerable to developing this condition.

To conclude, mothers must seek treatment immediately when these symptoms arise. Postpartum depression may lead the mother to a series of poor decisions, which may include substance abuse. No matter the degree of the negative emotions a woman may experience during or after a pregnancy, it is best to have a professional guide you to recovery.

Villa Hope Content Team

Villa Hope Content Team

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