Postpartum Depression is Real – Take Action!

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Having a baby is an exciting event.

However, along with the joy, excitement and euphoria that surrounds the birth of a baby, many women experience feelings of depression as well as increased sensitivity, tearfullness and irritability.

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A woman might worry that she will not be a good mother, or that her relationship with her husband will be negatively affected by the birth. These anxieties together with unbalanced hormones and extreme fatigue can contribute to drastic mood swings, depression and anxiety.

These feelings of anxiety (known as ‘the baby blues‘) occur in more than 50% of postpartum women and generally disappear or subside on their own within a few weeks. However, there are more severe cases where the feelings are so intense that they interfere with the mother’s ability to function. This is known as ‘postpartum depression’ (PPD). If it is caught early, it can be treated by a professional.

Postpartum depression occurs in 10-15% of postpartum women.

It begins a month or so after the birth, sometimes even later. Women suffering from postpartum depression often feel ashamed or guilty about the feelings of alienation and rejection she feels towards her baby. As a result of the shame, these women do not turn to anyone for help, preventing themselves from receiving necessary treatment.

Postpartum depression is a vicious circle in which the more the mother suffers the more confused and frustrated she becomes, worsening the situation.

The line between normal “baby blues” and postpartum depression is not clear cut and should therefore only be determined by an experienced professional.

These are my thoughts & experiences on my journey through severe post natal depression. I’m not an expert or doctor so these views are from someone who has simply been there. *Please check the APP website for the latest statistics.

Postpartum Psychosis from Action on PP on Vimeo.

Signs
If you or a family member has recently given birth, be aware for the following symptoms, which may indicate postpartum depression:

  • Feelings of depression much of the day, most days
  • Loss of interest in things that were previously pleasurable such as watching tv or socializing.
  • Excessive weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping even when baby is asleep
  • Isolation and avoiding friends and phone calls
  • Prominent irritability and unexplained outbursts of anger
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating and making decisions
  • Difficulty in daily functioning, a sense that even simple tasks are too difficult
  • Multiple physical complaints, with no clear medical source
  • Difficulty caring for the baby, indifference towards or rejection of the baby
  • Unexplained or excessive anxiety over the baby’s well being

If this last sign is accompanied by any of the previously mentioned symptoms, immediate professional help is required as the baby may be in danger:

  • Extreme anxiety, fear of being left alone with the baby or radical rather than logical thinking

There are certain women who are more suseptible to postpartum depression:

  • Women who have a history of depression in the family
  • Women who’ve previously suffered from depression
  • Women who lacked support during pregnancy
  • Women with problems in their relationships

Other Important Symptoms
There are women who develop symptoms of PTSD after going through a difficult and traumatic birth, for example, nightmares and intrusive thoughts about the event or avoidance of certain places or situations. This can be treated by a professional.

Another rare phenomenon (occurs in 1 out of 100 births) is postpartum psychosis. Postpartum psychosis is characterized by dissociation from family and reality, extreme confusion, agitation and hallucinations. This requires medical treatment.

How is Postpartum Depression Treated?

Part of treatment is to recruit more sources of support for the new mother. The spouse, extended family and friends are guided as to how to support her and surround her with an environment that provides security and acceptance.

Psychotherapy can be effective in processing thoughts and feelings that can overwhelm the mother. In many cases antidepressants (SSRI) are prescribed along with psychotherapy. These medications are prescribed by a psychiatrist and some can be taken while breastfeeding.

It is important to remember that many postpartum women experience moodiness, irritability and negative thoughts about motherhood and the baby. Some women can deal with these feelings by themselves however, if a mother or those around her notice that the ‘baby blues’ are becoming too intense, it is important to seek professional help.

Dr. Shiri Bennaim. Psychologist, Mental Health Clinic, Hadassah Ein Kerem.

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