You Are Never Alone: Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression developed by mothers who have given birth.  PPD is the most common complication following childbirth, and it is estimated that 1 out of 7 moms are effected. It is a medical condition and requires treatment to get better.  Here is what you need to know about postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum depression is a particular type of depression that effects mothers who have given birth.  PPD typically consists of strong feelings of sadness that can lost long after delivery.  About 1 in 7 women are effected making PPD the most common complication for women who have just had a baby. While PPD can happen any time after childbirth, it often develops 1 to 3 weeks after delivery.

Here’s what you need to know:

– It is NOT your fault.  You didn’t do anything to cause PPD and it does not make you a bad person or a bad mother.

– YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Many women have PPD.

– You can get help and your depression can go away.

Talk to you health care provider if you think you have PPD.  There are many treatment options to get you back to feeling like yourself.

IS PPD THE SAME AS BABY BLUES?

No. PPD lasts longer and is more serious than the “baby blues”. Often the symptoms of baby blue will hit within four to five days following childbirth.  Some common symptoms are crying for no apparent reason, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, sadness and mood changes.  The symptoms of the “baby blues” normally occur for a few minutes up to a few hours each day. These symptoms should lessen and disappear within fourteen days after delivery.  If they do not, your provider should evaluate you for PPD.

 

WHAT CAUSES PPD?

No one is exactly sure what causes PPD.  One of the most common suspects, is hormonal changes.  Hormones are chemicals in your body. Some help control your emotions and mood. During pregnancy, your body has higher levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. But in the first 24 hours after giving birth, these hormones quickly go back to their normal levels. This rapid drop in hormone levels may lead to PPD.

Low levels of thyroid hormones also may lead to depression. The thyroid is a gland in your neck that helps your body use and store energy from food.

While no one is sure on the cause, there are some factors that have been linked to an increased chance of developing PPD:

– Younger than 20 years old.

– You’ve had PPD, major depression or other mood disorders previously.

– Family history of depression.

– Recent stressful events in your life, including but not limited to: death of a loved one, problems with your partner, money problems, difficult childbirth or pregnancy, etc.

 

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF PPD?

You may have PPD if you have five or more signs of PPD that last longer than 2 weeks. These are the signs to look for:

Changes in your feelings:

  • Feeling depressed most of the day every day
  • Feeling shame, guilt or like a failure
  • Feeling panicky or scared a lot of the time
  • Having severe mood swings

Changes in your everyday life:

  • Having little interest in things you normally like to do
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Eating a lot more or a lot less than is normal for you
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions

Changes in how you think about yourself or your baby:

  • Having trouble bonding with your baby
  • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby
  • Thinking about killing yourself

If you think you may have PPD, call your health care provider right away. There are things you and your provider can do to help you feel better. If you’re worried about hurting yourself or your baby, call emergency services at 911.

 

HOW IS PPD TREATED?

If you think you may have PPD, see a health care provider right away. Your provider can be the person who delivered your baby, like an obstetrician, family practice doctor or certified nurse-midwife. Or she could be your primary care provider or your baby’s provider. Or she can be a mental health professional, like a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner.

To find out if you have PPD, your health care provider asks you questions about how you’re feeling. He wants to know if your feelings are causing problems in how you care for yourself and your baby. He may ask you to fill out a form called a depression screening questionnaire. Your answers on the form can help him find out if you have PPD.

Your provider may do tests to see if you have other health problems that may lead to PPD. For example, he may check your thyroid hormones. Low levels of thyroid hormones may lead to PPD.

The sooner you see your provider about PPD, the better. You can get started on treatment to make you feel better so you can take good care of yourself and your baby. These are treatments your provider may suggest:

  • Counseling. This also is called therapy. It’s when you talk about your feelings and concerns with a mental health professional. She helps you understand your feelings, solve problems and cope with things in your everyday life.
  • Support groups. These are groups of people who meet together or go online to share their feelings and experiences about certain topics. Being part of a support group may help you feel better. Your provider can help you find a PPD support group near you or tell you about online groups.
  • Medicine. PPD often is treated with medicine.

Medicines to treat PPD include:

  • Antidepressants. These are medicines used to treat many kinds of depression, including PPD. Some have side effects, like having a dry mouth or gaining weight. And some are not safe to take if you’re breastfeeding. Talk to your provider to find out about these medicines and decide if one is right for you.
  • Estrogen. This hormone plays an important role in your menstrual cycle and pregnancy. During childbirth, the amount of estrogen in your body drops quickly. To help with PPD, your provider may suggest you wear an estrogen patch on your skin to replace the estrogen your body lost. If you are breastfeeding, check with your provider to see if the patch is safe for you to use. You can pass estrogen to your baby through breast milk.

If you’re taking medicine for PPD:

  • Don’t stop taking any medicines for PPD without your provider’s OK. It’s important that you take all your medicine for as long as your provider prescribes it. Some medicines used to treat depression have side effects if you stop taking them too soon. Follow your provider’s instructions about how to take your medicine.
  • Some medicines used to treat PPD aren’t safe for your baby if you’re breastfeeding. Talk to your provider to make sure what you’re taking is best for you and your baby.
  • Some people use an herb called St. John’s wort to treat depression. We don’t know how safe this herb is for women with PPD. More research is needed. Until we know more about it, don’t take St. John’s wort for PPD.

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP YOURSELF FEEL BETTER?

Here’s what you can do to help the treatment from your provider work better:

Stay healthy and fit.

  • Do something active every day. Go for a walk or get back to the gym.
  • Eat healthy foods. These include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and lean meats. Try to eat fewer sweets and salty snacks.
  • Get as much rest as you can. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Don’t drink alcohol. This includes beer, wine, wine coolers and liquor. Alcohol is a depressant, which means it can slow your body down and make you feel more depressed. It also can interact with the medicine you’re taking for PPD. It’s never a good idea to drink alcohol if you’re breastfeeding. This is because you can pass alcohol to your baby through your breast milk.
  • Don’t take street drugs. These affect the way your body works and can cause problems with the medicine you’re taking for PPD. You also can pass street drugs to your baby through breast milk.

Ask for and accept help.

  • Keep in touch with people you care about and who care about you. Tell your partner, family
    and friends how you’re feeling.
  • Take time for yourself. Ask someone you trust to watch the baby so you can get out of the
    house. Visit a friend, get outside or do something you enjoy. Plan for some time alone with
    your partner.
  • Let others help around the house. Ask your friends and family to watch the baby, help with housekeeping or go grocery shopping. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.

Lower your stress.

  • Do the things you liked to do before you had your baby. Listen to music, read a good book or take a class.
  • Do the things that used to make you feel good about yourself before you got pregnant.
  • Try not to make any major changes in your life right after having your baby. These include moving or changing jobs. Major changes can add stress to your life that you don’t need right now.
  • Talk to your boss about going back to work. Maybe you can work at home or part-time when you first go back to work.

 

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If you think you are at risk for Postpartum Depression, please reach out to someone today.  Our providers are always here to help with open ears and hearts.  You can also find support and additional resources with the following organizations:

Postpartum Support International

March of Dimes

Postpartum Society of Florida

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