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Postpartum Depression – More Than Just the “Baby Blues”

For mothers who have just given birth, it is supposed to be a joyous time of life. For women suffering from postpartum depression, however, new motherhood can be one of the most difficult and trying experiences of their lives.

An All-too-Common Problem

Unfortunately, postpartum depression afflicts many women. In fact, it is believed that 10% – 20% of all new mothers experience some form of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and if you notice any warning signs, talk to your primary care practitioner or OB-Gyn provider as soon as possible to be properly diagnosed and treated. Postpartum depression is an illness that can have serious consequences for you and your child if left untreated. Many states, including Massachusetts, have enacted screening guidelines so more people suffering from postpartum depression can get help.

Key Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

  • A sense of sadness, hopelessness or emptiness
  • Feelings of anger and rage
  • Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment to your baby
  • Intense worrying or anxiousness
  • Thoughts of hurting your child
  • Persistent doubts about your ability to care for your child
  • Problems with sleeping

How is it Different From Having the “Baby Blues”?

It is not uncommon for woman to experience mood swings and feelings of worry, fatigue and unhappiness after having a baby. This is commonly known as the “baby blues” and usually subsides after a few weeks. Postpartum depression is much more severe in nature, and is a condition that requires treatment by a medical professional.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

The causes of postpartum depression are believed to be related to the stress and hormone changes a woman undergoes during and after a pregnancy. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone, two of the body’s key hormones, can lead to chemical changes in the brain that bring on depression. Genetics also play a role, as women who have been previously diagnosed with depression or bi-polar disorder are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression.

What About Treatment?

Fortunately, postpartum depression can be treated successfully with a number of therapies including cognitive/behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and medications. If you suffering from postpartum depression, it’s important to talk to your medical provider so you can get the treatment you need. Your medical provider will not think you are a bad mother if you are suffering from postpartum depression. The good news is that with proper treatment, most mothers will go on to enjoy this very important and rewarding time of their lives.

Check these links to learn more about postpartum depression:

www.postpartumma.org

http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/family-health/postpartum-depression/information-for-moms.html

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