Mom holds baby while suffering with postpartum depression

A Look at Postpartum Depression

Having a baby is a significant life event that comes with a range of emotions. For many women, bringing home a new baby is a time of joy, excitement, and anxiety, but for others, it could be a distressing and challenging time. Studies show that 70-80% of women struggle with their mood at some point in time after birth. This article will describe the difference between “Baby Blues” and Clinical Postpartum Depression and will include suggestions for seeking help for yourself or someone you love. 

Any parent can describe how much life can change once you bring home a new baby. One must adjust to a new role (mother, father, sibling), manage sleep deprivation, and, for a mother who has given birth, physically recover and manage changes in hormones. The “Baby Blues” is a common experience for mothers that can occur within 2 weeks after birth. Symptoms may include fatigue, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and weepiness. With a little good self-care (i.e. sleep, movement, laughter, nourishment), these symptoms can resolve on their own within just hours to days. It is important for women with histories of depression to be aware of this to avoid misinterpretation of the symptoms as something more severe. 

Clinical Postpartum Depression often has an onset within the first three months after birth, but may occur anytime during the first year postpartum or even during pregnancy. Symptoms are very similar to those experienced in “Baby Blues”, but are more intense and last longer. Additional symptoms, and those that I have commonly seen in mothers in my practice, include fears of being a bad mother, difficulty bonding with baby, intense anxiety and worry, feelings of shame and guilt, and lack of confidence in, or ability to, making decisions. The symptom of most concern is suicidal or thoughts of harming the baby. If these types of thoughts are present, immediate help is needed. 

Unfortunately, many mothers stay quiet when experiencing these symptoms as they believe, “I should be happy”. Many feel ashamed that they are in distress. If you are a new mother relating to the experiences listed above, please know that you are not alone, and support is available. Prognosis is greatly improved when treated earlier. Treatment may include psychotherapy (such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), checking for underlying medical conditions, medication management, and an increase in support/self-care. Alerting your OBGYN and seeking referrals can be a great way to start on the path to recovery and enjoyment of this special time in life.