The Truth About Women & Postpartum Depression
Becoming a new mother can be a wonderful, exciting experience, but it can also be a daunting one. While childbirth is typically a joyous occasion, it is not uncommon for new mothers to experience some slight mood swings or anxiety when they first arrive home with their new baby.
Commonly known as the "baby blues," these feelings typically begin within hours or days of birth and are usually attributed to physical and hormonal changes in your body, emotional factors related to caring for the baby, disrupted routines, and overall exhaustion. "Baby blues" are not uncommon and usually come and go for up to four weeks before disappearing.
Some women, however, experience more intense symptoms of depression that persist beyond a couple of weeks, and don't resolve on their own. This can be sign of a more serious disorder, Postpartum Depression (PPD), in which the new mother experiences feelings of sadness, anger, irritability, or worthlessness; no energy or motivation; eating too much or too little; sleep problems (beyond the normal lack of sleep new moms usually get); loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities; difficulty concentrating or making decisions. Women suffering from PPD may also show a lack of interest in the baby, have a fear of "going crazy," harming herself or the baby, feel guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that they cannot take care of their baby.
According to a recent CDC survey, 11% to 18% of women reported having frequent Postpartum Depressive symptoms. But contrary to popular opinion, PPD does not only affect new mothers. Sometimes, PPD can be related to a woman's reproductive experience, such as losing a baby, difficulty getting pregnant, having a baby as a teen, having twins or triplets, premature labor and delivery, having a baby with birth defects, birth complications such as a C-section, or having a baby or infant hospitalized.
Because PPD is a medical condition that involves the brain, it is important to seek treatment right away. While it is possible that the depression could eventually go away without help, studies show that left untreated, PPD tends to get worse instead of better.
If you have any of the above symptoms, get help right away. Confide in your doctor or health care clinician openly and honestly so they can properly assess the seriousness of your symptoms and determine the best way to treat them. Certain medications such as antidepressants may help improve your mood, sleep, appetite, and concentration, so talk to your doctor about the benefits and side effects to determine which, if any, is right for you. Often the best course of action for women with PPD is a combination of both medication and counseling therapy with a trained professional.
Remember, the first year of your child's life is critical for language and brain development, bonding and behavior, and establishing normal, healthy interactions between mother and child. The sooner PPD is treated, the sooner you can help produce a happy, healthy child and enjoy the sweet fruits of your labor known as motherhood.