Postpartum Depression or “Baby Blues”

Summer is a common time to see a lot of new babies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported almost four million births in 2013, with the most common month of deliveries being in August (Martin, J.A., et al, 2015).  The prevalence of “Postpartum Depression” (PPD) is up to 6% of women. This means that about half a million women in the U.S. will experience this debilitating disorder. The sare, ethnicity or cultural background is not specific to PPD.
It has been estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that about 80% of women experience the “baby blues”. Most women experience “normal” range of anxiety and fears fro the baby but usually it goes away in weeks and they can function normally. “After childbirth, the levels of hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. In addition, many mothers are unable to get the rest they need to fully recover from giving birth. Constant sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression.” (NIMH, n.d.)

It is important to differentiate between what is known as “baby blues” and the symptoms experienced in PPD. Postpartum depression is not just having some “bad days”. Women with PPD have debilitating symptoms for a period of at least two weeks or longer and the symptoms they experience lower their functioning. This means they affect the individual’s daily performance, sense of self and of their lives.

Every individual is different, and even with the same diagnosis have different symptoms. Some of the symptoms of PPD can be identified in the following (but not limited) ways:
1. Not connected or bonding to the new baby
2. Guilt
3. Feeling confused, scared, angry or resentment towards baby or partner
4. Feelings of numbness or emptiness
5. Feeling hopeless and helpless
6. Feeling sadness and inability to stop crying
7. Inability to eat or eating more than usual
8. Inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual
9. Feeling overwhelmed, unable to focus of make decisions
10. Doing all you can to help yourself (exercising, eating healthy, healthy sleep habits, taking vitamins, spiritual practices and still can’t “snap out of it” and you know there is something wrong.
11. Having thoughts of running away, driving off the road, or taking pills to end it
12.  Afraid that if you ask for help you will lose your baby.

Postpartum depression (PPD) sometimes goes away on its own within three months of giving birth. But if it interferes with your normal functioning at any time, or if “the blues” lasts longer than two weeks, you should seek treatment. The tendency of women is to isolate as they feel disconnected from everyone and suicide risk increases.
About 90% of women who have postpartum depression can be treated successfully with medication or a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

Seek a qualified and trained mental health professional who specializes in treating postpartum depression. A therapist can give emotional support and help you understand your feelings and develop realistic goals, which are critical to overcoming PPD.

References:

Martin, J.A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J., Curtin, S. C.,  Mathews, T.J. (2015) National Vital Statistics Report. Vol 64, No. 1.
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) Postpartum depression.  Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml#pub6
Stone K. (n.d.) The symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety. Reviewed July 1, 2015 from www.postpartumprogress.com

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