The Women's Journal

Postpartum Depression – What You Should Know

By  |  0 Comments

Dr Nancy FanBy Nancy Fan, M.D., Women to Women OB/GYN, Saint Francis Healthcare

The birth of a baby may be the most satisfying, joyful experience of a woman’s life.  However, it can also be overwhelming with feelings of anxiety or depression for many women. The challenges of caring for a newborn and the life changes that occur during the postpartum period can result for some women in “baby blues,” a term used to describe mood swings and periods of sadness after having a baby. These feelings usually appear a few days after giving birth, but shouldn’t last more than a week or two. When these feelings become more intense and last more than a few weeks, it could be considered postpartum depression.

What are some of the symptoms of postpartum depression?

Symptoms of postpartum depression can include frequent crying, difficulty sleeping or enjoying normal daily activities, which may result in a desire to withdraw from family and friends to the extent of intentional isolation. There may be more severe feelings, such as not bonding with your baby, doubting your parenting abilities, or in the extreme, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

How common is it?

Women who experience these thoughts and feelings should not feel ashamed or “bad.”  In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believe it is the number one complication of childbirth. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 9 women in the United States experience some level of postpartum depression.  According to the CDC’s PRAMStat, an online database developed to provide access to maternal and child health indicators, about 11% of mothers in Delaware reported frequent postpartum depressive symptoms between 2009 and 2011.

Many public figures have shared their struggles with postpartum depression, including actresses such as Chrissy Teigen and Lisa Rinna. In a 2016 Glamour magazine article, Teigen shared that after giving birth she would go days without food and cry spontaneously. Rinna suffered more severe symptoms which included thoughts of harming her family. In a HLN interview, Rinna said she suffered in silence and encouraged women to share how they are feeling with their spouses and health care providers.

Can it be treated?

If you feel you may be experiencing postpartum depression, the good news is it can be treated. You may want to express your feelings and fears to your health care provider or consider a consultation with a behavioral health specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or therapist. Treatment may include a combination of options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and antidepressant medications.

Cognitive behavioral therapy provides coping methods which may help women manage and modify their thoughts, emotions and behaviors.

Interpersonal therapy teaches communication skills to help women find the social support they need. The goal is to improve relationships with others to help reduce stress. Treatment usually lasts 12-16 weeks and focuses on interpersonal deficits, interpersonal disputes, grief, and life transitions.

Antidepressants help regulate mood and typically present little to no harm for nursing mothers. Women should consult with their health care provider to discuss the benefits and risks associated with each type of antidepressant medication. Taking an antidepressant medication for a few months after childbirth does not imply that this will require lifelong treatment.

How will postpartum depression affect my baby?

Mothers with untreated postpartum depression may not develop an emotional bond with their child. The lack of an emotional bond may lead to babies who have trouble interacting with their mothers or who develop skills later than other babies.

In the end, postpartum depression is a common and treatable condition after childbirth. Remember, having a baby is a major life change and it can introduce many fears and stressors for parents. If you have feelings of doubt, sadness or difficulty bonding with your baby, those feelings are okay. The important thing is to not be ashamed, feel guilty or “bad” – talk to someone. Do not be afraid to share your feelings with a spouse, close friend or relative. When you feel comfortable enough to open up about your feelings, do not be afraid to talk with your health care provider or a behavioral health specialist. They are there to help moms and babies be happy and healthy.

If you would like to talk to someone about your postpartum depression or women’s health needs, please call Women to Women OB/GYN at 302.778.2229.

st francis preg ad amj18