Postpartum depression affects many women after labor and delivery. Two forms of postpartum depression, or PPD, are described by medical professionals: Baby blues, experienced by perhaps has many as 80 percent of new mothers within the first couple of weeks after birth and stronger feelings of depression that do not set in until several weeks after the baby is born. These longer-lasting feelings are the ones generally referred to as postpartum depression and the feelings are real. The symptoms typically pass naturally on their own without any kind of medical intervention but knowing what to expect, what symptoms to look for and being willing to seek help with postpartum depression are key steps in managing it.
A New Baby Brings Change
Being a new mom—or even a veteran mom with another new baby—can be daunting. There are many responsibilities, doctor visits, teaching the little bundle how to breastfeed—not to mention the regular day-to-day tasks that existed before baby was brought home and will continue to exist. Additionally, the little one is likely not letting its mother sleep much and the body is readjusting to no longer being pregnant, which means a new mother’s hormones are shifting and rebalancing. All of these changes and added pressures, coupled with the concern for baby’s well-being and the future can make women anxious, overly stressed and often times, depressed.
Support is Key to New Mothers
It is important to have a support network established, such as family, that can help you change diapers, cook meals, and get laundry folded so that the body can heal, the uterus can contract and the mother can begin to adjust to her new routine with baby. If a woman already has children, perhaps a friend or relative can take the kids out for ice cream and a movie or maybe to the park for a couple hours so that mom can sneak a well-deserved nap and a hot shower. If there is no support network already built in, joining a local mom group or support group to discuss concerns and frustrations and build friendship networks can be beneficial. Studies show that when women have postpartum support, they are better able to cope with the dynamic emotions associated with postpartum depression.
When to Be Concerned
If strong symptoms of depression don’t pass naturally—symptoms such as sadness, feeling like things will never get better and hopelessness—it is important for women to explain how they are feeling to their healthcare provider. It could be that more support is needed at home or perhaps the mother is dealing with other important events in life or traumas. Perhaps a woman is suffering from a poor relationship or is experiencing financial difficulties, all factors that can contribute to postpartum depression. Emerging research also suggests that some women might genetically be more predisposed to depression than others, especially if the patient has had a history of depression or if mood disorders run in the family. Some women might benefit from different types of therapy, from counseling to learn strategies for counteracting negative feelings and thoughts, to therapy focused on improving relationships. Getting on a daily exercise routine can also boost one’s mood, but if postpartum depression persists, using medication could be considered. Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness like some women might think. In fact, it is proactive. Long-lasting postpartum depression can lead to long-lasting problems including attention deficits in the child and problems with mother/baby bonding. Knowing how to seek help and doing so are the first steps in regaining control and happiness.