Having a baby can be a joyous time, but it also can be overwhelming emotionally, physically, and mentally. Most moms have the Baby Blues following the birth due to the dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone. For a couple of weeks, you may be moody, feel overwhelmed, and have trouble eating and sleeping. This is normal as your body and hormones recover. In contrast, Postpartum Depression (PD) is more intense than the Baby Blues, and it can persist for months past the birth.
If you or anyone you know has had depression, you may realize that Postpartum Depression can be debilitating and may require treatment. It is estimated that at least 10 percent of moms experience Postpartum Depression. That is more than half a million women! We encourage you and your spouse or partner to be aware of the symptoms and know when to see a doctor.
Watch for Intense, Persistent Symptoms
Postpartum Depression consists of intense mood and behavior changes that extend more than two weeks after birth. Depressed moods, excessive crying, anger and irritability, and eating or sleeping too much or too little may be part of PD. Anxiety or panic attacks can also arise. Postpartum Depression can make it extremely difficult to care for and bond with your baby. You may have negative thoughts about yourself or your baby—a sign that you should talk to your doctor immediately.
Mothers who are most at risk include those who have a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or family members with mood disorders. Complications of the pregnancy, including a special needs baby or multiples, also increase the chances of experiencing PD. Having minimal support, relationship issues, or financial trouble can also be associated with higher risk of Postpartum Depression. Finally, if the pregnancy wasn’t planned, the mom is more at risk of PD.
You should also be aware that fathers can also experience Postpartum Depression. They can experience the same symptoms as the mother of the baby. Young dads and those who have had depression, financial problems, or relationship issues are more at risk of getting paternal Postpartum Depression.
· Hormonal drop in estrogen and progesterone
· Up to two weeks of symptoms
· Mood swings, including sadness, crying, irritability, and anxiety
· Difficulty sleeping
· Appetite changes
· Feeling overwhelmed
What Isn’t Normal?
· Mood changes beyond two weeks
· Trouble bonding with your baby
· Sleep issues
· Intense depression, irritability, anger, crying
· Anxiety attacks
· Negative thoughts about you or your baby
· Withdrawal from family and friends
Diagnosing and Treating Postpartum Depression
To determine if you’re experiencing “Baby Blues” or Postpartum Depression, your doctor will ask you some questions about your symptoms and how you’re feeling. They may ask you to fill out a postpartum depression screen.
Treatment for Postpartum Depression usually consists of counseling, medication, or a combination of the two. Antidepressants can be used while breastfeeding without risks to the baby, but you will want to determine if that works for you and your family.
Talking with a mental health professional can have a positive effect. Therapists and counselors can help you talk through problems and find more effective coping techniques. Support groups for moms with PD can make you feel more supported and better equipped to tackle the challenges of motherhood.
Building Resilience and Support
At home, you can build up your resilience by asking for help when you need it. You may find comfort in developing a plan for support before the baby comes. You will want to call on your network of family and friends to check in with you when the baby arrives.
Many mothers also forget to take care of themselves when the baby comes, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be there for your baby, spouse, or other children. Making healthy choices, such as avoiding alcohol and getting sleep, exercise, sunshine, and fresh air, will help you anytime you are feeling blue. Find ways to take time for yourself, too. For example, hobbies such as crocheting, knitting, and other arts and crafts can provide wonderful ways to relax and ease into sleep.
In summary, if you have mood changes that are intense or beyond the 14 days after having your baby, talk to your doctor. She will determine if you have Postpartum Depression or the Baby Blues and will recommend treatment if necessary. At West Des Moines OBGYN Associates, we want every mother to be as strong and healthy as she can be, and that includes mental and emotional health. Please call us if you have questions or concerns about your risk for Postpartum Depression. We will do everything we can to help you manage the stresses of motherhood.