August 14, 2013

Post-Partum Depression: What every expectant or new mom needs to know.

Post-Partum Depressive Disorder: What every expectant or new mom needs to know.

1)What is Post Partum Depression, how common is it?  

PPDD is technically known as a major depressive disorder with post-partum onset. This condition is a mood disorder which also has physical symptoms and impairments. It usually occurs within the first four weeks after delivery but some feel it can appear as late as several months after the baby is born.  Depression which occurs before delivery is called perinatal or ante-natal depression.  Estimates vary but between 11%-19% of new mothers report having this condition.

2)What are the symptoms?

  • Problems sleeping, too little/ too much
  • Changes in appetite and eating, too little/to much ( weight gain or loss)  Fatigue,
  • Less activity and social withdrawal
  • Inability to experience pleasure or joy (including sex)
  • Sadness and tearfulness,
  • Inability to concentrate, short term memory problems
  • Hopelessness, and feeling helpless to improve things
  • Thoughts that you might be better off dead.  

3)What is the difference between baby blues and postpartum depression?

Baby blues is a normal adjustment period that occurs during the first few weeks after the birth of your baby.  It is not an illness, and lots of women experience it.  It resolves on its own. 

PPDD is a clinical depressive condition which is detected because it lasts more than two weeks and does not go away. PPDD requires medical attention.     

4) What does treatment involve, how effective is it and how long will it take to get better?

Usually a combination of medication and cognitive psychotherapy will do the trick. The good news is that treatment is very effective and you should start to feel better in a few weeks and be back to your old self ( well… old self with a new baby) in a few months. There are several factors which may alter your recovery. For example:

  • How long did you suffer from PPD before you reached out for treatment? Did you ignore it for months?
  • How severe is your depression? Is there any psychosis or other complicating issues?
  • What is your current life situation and how may it be affecting your recovery, e.g. how stressed is your life and how good is you support network?
  • Are you following the treatment plan? Do you take your meds as prescribed and exercise and journal regularly? 

5) What are some of the risk factors for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety?

There are many risk factors including:

  • Geography – some states are less (New England) some are more (New Mexico)
  • Age – Young teens are most at risk.
  • Medical Conditions – Thyroid or diabetes.
  • Psychiatric History – bi-polar or depressive/ anxiety disorder, a history of childhood trauma or previous post- partum depressions.
  • Stress Factors – poverty, domestic violence, military wives
  • Inadequate support network,

6) What could happen if I choose not to get professional help and just wait it out until this goes away?

****If you ignore PPD it could become more severe and chronic. It also has the potential to affect your child’s development. This is why it is not a good idea to try and wait until PPD goes away on its own. Fortunately the Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that every mom be screened for PPDD between 4 and 6 weeks after delivery.

Finally - I’m a dad.  What do I do?

First, don’t panic about postpartum depression. What your wife or partner is going through is a common illness and is treatable.  She will get back to the person you know, with your support and patience.

Three things to remember About Post-Partum Depressive Disorder:

1)    PPDD is a real and serious psychological disorder.  It doesn’t just go away.

2)    PPDD is very treatable. See your doctor if your symptoms last more than two weeks. 

3)    Don’t ignore PPDD.  Left untreated PPDD can become more severe and  chronic.

For More information see:

The Rev. Michael Heath prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 8 14 2013   www.revmichaelheath.com/

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