Monday, February 3, 2014

Postpartum Depression: Understanding, Recognizing and Dealing


Many women (about 50%) will experience some form of mild baby blues after delivery. Usually characterized by sudden mood swings (ranging from sadness to happiness), these symptoms generally last a few days to a few weeks. For others, though, it doesn't stop there and true postpartum depression sets in. 

Postpartum depression affects roughly 10-20% of new moms, characterized by intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, fear and despair. Often interfering with the ability to function and perform daily activities, symptoms of postpartum depression can worsen if medical attention is not sought. While you may think it would be easy to spot the signs of pospartum depression, all too often it goes unrecognized - causing potentially more harm to mom, the baby and the family.


Understanding PPD:
Educate yourself before you have your baby about postpartum depression - why it happens, what causes it, and how to cope with it. Having a solid understanding of what is happening to your body will better allow you to cope with your depression. Your body goes through some pretty extreme hormonal changes after delivering your baby. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically, and combined with changes in blood pressure and metabolism that new mothers experience, this can lead to postpartum depression. 

There are some risk factors that have been associated with developing postpartum depression. These risk factors, in conjunction with changes in your physical appearance as well as the added stress of having a new baby, can contribute to postpartum depression. These risk factors include:
  • A previous history of depression (or having PPD previously)
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • A history of severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMS)
Recognizing the Signs:
Make sure you are keeping a close eye on your thoughts, actions and attitude. Close friends and family should also be aware of the signs of postpartum depression, and not be afraid to talk with you about it. Your doctor will also "screen" for symptoms during your postpartum checkup, but don't rely on a quick visit to uncover what may be postpartum depression. You should look for:
  • Lack of energy and/or motivation
  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Overly worried about the baby, or not worried at all
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Disinterest in activities you usually are interested in
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself, or your baby
Dealing with PPD:
If you, or a friend of family member, suspects any of the symptoms the worst thing you can do is brush it off. Recognizing that you are being affected by postpartum depression is going to help you cope with it better. Take care of yourself - go for a walk down the street and get some fresh air, make sure you are eating frequent and properly balanced meals, start a simple exercise routine. These things are going to help to lighten your mood and keep your spirits up.

Proper support from family and friends is extremely important as well. If you're not receiving the support you need at home, join a group of new moms - sharing stories and being around others in your same situation will help you through this difficult time. 

If your symptoms are not going away, getting worse, or if you start having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby - you need to seek professional attention. Counseling, therapy and even medications can help get you back on track. It's important to remember that you can get through this, just make sure to ask for help when needed.

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