It is estimated that 1 in 5 women will experience symptoms postpartum depression. Although having a child can seem like a joyful moment in one’s life, many women may fall victim to depression during this time.
So, in this article, we will cover all you need to know about postpartum depression, and how an emotional support animal can help you.
What is PPD: Postpartum Depression in Women
Childbirth can be an exciting and beautiful milestone in a parents’ life. However, sometimes, new mothers may experience postpartum depression within 1 year of bearing their child.
The term postpartum depression describes the different mood swings and emotional disorders that a woman may face after childbirth.
According to physicians and mental health professionals, postpartum depression can be seen as:
- Postpartum Panic Disorder
- Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPPTSD)
- Postpartum Psychosis (PPP), and
- Baby Blues
Postpartum Panic Disorder
A postpartum panic attack is the sudden onset of severe and uncontrolled anxiety and fear.
During a panic attack, a person may experience shortness of breath, extreme fear, nausea, lightheadedness, and excessive sweating.
Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PPPTSD)
Women who have undergone severe trauma during birth may experience post-traumatic stress.
For example, a woman who has lost her child or who may have sustained an injury during birth may experience flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, and fear.
Often women suffering from this form of depression may benefit the most from an emotional support animal.
Postpartum Psychosis (PPP)
Postpartum psychosis is undoubtedly the most severe form of postpartum depression in women. This form of depression will generally occur within 3 months of delivery.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, extreme agitation, and suicidal thoughts.
Postpartum psychosis has a strong link with bipolar disorder, and severe cases can result in infanticidal acts.
Women diagnosed with this form of postpartum depression will require immediate hospitalization.
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
For a new mother, becoming a proper parent can seem like a daunting task. New mothers can develop symptoms that correlate to postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (POCD).
Symptoms of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder will involve continually repeating a specific behavior even when not needed.
For example, women suffering from this form of postnatal depression may obsessively change their babies nappies even when it is completely clean.
Undoubtedly, one of the most common forms of postnatal depression seen in new mothers is called the Baby Blues. This form of postnatal depression is short-lived, where symptoms may last anywhere from 10 to 15 days.
New mothers diagnosed with the Baby Blues will experience symptoms like sudden and frequent crying, anxiety, increased irritability, anger, sadness, and insomnia.
It is important to remember that the Baby Blues is ubiquitous in new mothers. Because it is widespread and short-lived, often no treatment or psychiatry intervention is required.
However, if the symptoms last for more than 2 weeks, then a new mother is at high risk of developing chronic postnatal depression. And, in such a case, psychiatry intervention may be necessary.
Relieve your Emotional Exhaustion & Postpartum Depression with the Help of an Emotional Support Animal!
For many of us, owning a dog or cat can genuinely be a rewarding experience. People who have owned pets can testify the postive effects they can have on our social lives, mental, and physical health.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
For women or men suffering from postnatal depression, an emotional support animal can prove to be extremely beneficial.
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are assistance animals who help comfort and support people going through difficult times.
Unlike service dogs and guide dogs, these types of assistance animals do not require training to help their handlers.
If you believe an emotional support animal is right for you, then it’s time to consider speaking with a licensed mental health professional.
At CertaPet, we understand the importance a pet can have on one’s mental and emotional health. So, we have taken the steps needed to make getting an emotional support animal easier.
Firstly, to qualify for an emotional support animal, you must be diagnosed with a mental or emotional illness. To receive a full diagnosis, you must consult a licensed mental health professional.
To get started, we highly recommend taking CertaPets 5-minute pre-screening questionnaire at the end of the questionnaire, you connect to a licensed mental health professional.
The licensed mental health professional will not only discuss your mental health problems, but they will also advise you on what you can do to better yourself.
If you are a strong candidate for an emotional support animal, then your mental health professional will provide an emotional support animal letter.
It is important to remember, that without an emotional support animal letter, you will not be legally protected under the Federal Fair Housing Act and Air Carriers Access Act.
ESAs affect your Brain Chemistry!
Although an emotional support animal does not require any specialized training, they all do have specific traits which make them great at doing what they do.
Emotional support animals are very in-tuned with their owners’ behavior and personality. Dogs and cats who are affectionate, loyal, and who share a strong bond with their owners will make great ESAs.
These furry-friends will often be able to detect changes in our personalities—such as when we are depressed or anxious—and they will come to comfort us in their own way.
By spending time and developing a strong bond with your emotional support animal, you can ultimately better your mental and physical health.
Postnatal Depression Risk Factors & Causes
Understanding the risk factors associated with postnatal depression can be quite debatable.
A lot of physicians and mental health professionals state that:
- inadequate social support
- stress during pregnancy
- low self-esteem
- pregnancy complications, and even
- an infants’ temperament
can all play a role in contributing to postnatal depression.
Perhaps the biggest and most definitive risk factor of them all is a prior history to depression and anxiety.
Women who have experienced depression or anxiety at some point in their life are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
In fact, studies suggest that women who have experienced depression before, are 25 to 55% more likely to suffer postnatal depression.
The Chemical Changes that lead to Depression during Pregnancy
To understand why emotional support animals work so well with women suffering from postpartum depression, we must first understand the biological and physiological changes that occur with this form of depression.
As with any major depressive disorder, postpartum depression is believed to be associated with an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
Depression often occurs due to neurochemical imbalances in the brain. For example, a lot of pregnant and nursing mothers will have low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in their brain.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in maintaining our mood. It is often nicknamed the “happy-chemical,” as the high levels of this chemical will result in a feeling of joy and happiness.
Another chemical that plays a vital role in postpartum depression is norepinephrine. Commonly referred to as the stress hormone, norepinephrine plays a vital role in the fight or flight response.
Its primary functions include increasing heart rate, blood pressure, glucose release and oxygen intake.
When a parent suffers from postpartum depression, they may experience either low levels of serotonin or low levels of norepinephrine.
Low levels of serotonin will lead to depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Low levels of serotonin will almost always be associated with a stressful event and a poor diet.
For example, a difficult pregnancy, reduced social interactions, and an unhealthy diet can all contribute to low levels of serotonin. Subsequently, low levels of norepinephrine will lead to a person becoming lethargic, anxious, and they will lack motivation.
5 Ways an ESA can help you Cope with this type of Depression
Our pets, be they dogs or cats, have a profound effect on our brain chemistry. By simply interacting with your furry friend every day, you will be able to alter your brain chemistry for the better.
When coping with postnatal depression—medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy are all essential aspects. However, an emotional support animal can play a significant role in also bettering your health too!
- ESAs will alter your brain chemistry: Spending time playing, holding, and petting your ESA can increase your serotonin, oxytocin, and prolactin levels! These are your happy chemicals, and when their levels increase, your depression and anxiety will gradually decrease.
- Emotional support dogs can sense when you’re down: We all know that dogs have a fantastic sense of smell. But, did you know that they can even smell changes in your brain chemistry! Yes, it is true. An emotional support dog with a great sense of smell will be able to detect when you’ve got low levels of serotonin. Dogs who are in tune with their handler may nudge them to play, ask for pets, or even give them doggie kisses when they sense their owner is depressed.
- Emotional support animals can help you sleep better: Emotional support dogs and cats that are affectionate will love to cuddle. People who have insomnia, as a result of postpartum depression will find that holding and sleeping with their ESA can help relieve sleep problems.
- You’ll become a lot more active: Owning an emotional support dog would entice you to live a healthier life. When you own an ESA, you will have to care for them by taking them for walks and runs. And, in many cases, you’ll even have to play with them when they’re bored. By spending outdoor time with your emotional support dog, you increase your physical and mental health.
- You won’t feel alone: Depression is not an easy mental illness to live with. A lot of new mother suffering from depression may feel lonely. The best part about owning an emotional support animal is that you’ll never feel you’re alone. A faithful and loyal emotional support dog will stick by your side through the very end!
Best Dog Breeds for People Suffering from PPD
Nearly any dog breed can make an excellent emotional support animal. However, some dog breeds may prove to be stronger candidates for ESAs compared to others.
In the list below, we will cover the top 4 dog breeds that are best suited to people suffering from postpartum depression.
A Dog with a Powerful Nose: The Beagle & Basset Hound!
Anyone who owns a Beagle will know what amazing dogs they are! Smart, loving, gentle, and active, the Beagle is undoubtedly one of the best ESAs out there.
Another member of the hound family is the Basset hound! Nothing best describes the Basset hound as a smart and laid-back pooch. These dogs are great for any person looking for a friendly pup.
As we mentioned earlier, dogs have a great sense of smell, their sense of smell is so powerful that they can even detect changes in our brain chemistry.
We decided to add both the Beagle and the Basset Hound as our top two emotional support dogs for postpartum depression as both these puppers are considered to have the most powerful little noses.
It is important to remember that both the Beagle and Basset hound are considered stubborn dog breeds. Which means, they can be challenging to train at first. So, these dog breeds are best suited to someone who’s got a lot of experience with dogs.
Two Pups who can Calm you Down: The Golden Retriever & Labrador Retriever
Comically known as the friendliest pooch in town, the Golden and Labrador Retriever are the type of dogs who’d lick you to death.
Medium to large in size, these two dog breeds often have similar personalities and temperaments.
Nothing best describes this duo as obedient, playful, friendly, and well-mannered. We decided to add the Golden Retriever and Labrador to our list of best dog breeds for postpartum depression because they not only have a great temperament, but they also are easy to train and can make great family dogs.
Are you Feeling Blue? Don’t let Postpartum Depression Get the Better of You and talk to a LMHP Today!
Parenthood should be a glorious moment in one’s life. It is a crucial experience that forms the bond between mother and child. So, if you are suffering from postpartum depression the consult a mental health professional who can help you cope with your mental illness.