We were recently asked to write an article about postpartum depression for a local new company called “New Mommy”. We appreciate the invitation and are excited for our article to be included on their website. We would like to share the article with you as well. Enjoy.
“Pregnancy and motherhood is often described as the happiest time of life for women. Often, however, while being so, it can also be a challenging time for new mothers and their families. New mothers are often disappointed by these challenges. However, they are more “normal” and more common than we know. Depression, it can be argued, is the most common complication associated with pregnancy and childbirth.
A lot of women experience Postpartum Depression. You are not alone.
Postpartum Depression (PD) is a type of clinical depression which can affect women after childbirth. Unlike the “baby blues” which many if not most women experience, the symptoms of sadness and depression with PD do not go away within two weeks and are often more severe. The prevalence rate for PD is estimated to be about 5-25%.
That means that up to one-fourth of all women in this country that give birth struggle with pregnancy related depression.
The symptoms that women often experience with PD include but are not limited to: sadness, increased crying, fatigue, irritability, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, hopelessness, low self esteem, guilt, social withdrawal and anxiety. A hallmark symptom of depression is what we call “anhedonia” or a lack of pleasure in the people or activities that were once enjoyed. Women often report a “numbness” or disinterest in life and often socially withdraw as a result. These symptoms start shortly after childbirth but surprisingly can occur anytime in the first year after childbirth. These symptoms occur for a minimum of two weeks but often are of a much longer duration.
The cause of PD is not fully understood. Some studies have suggested that it may be caused by the substantial hormone shifts that occur during and after pregnancy. Some have reported that vitamin deficiencies such as low Omega 3-FA and B Vitamins are also a potential cause. In addition, the major lifestyle changes that occur for individual women and their families and the support system available are also contributing factors.
Thankfully, there are several academic institutions including Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Women’s Mental Health (www.womensmentalhealth.org) and Emory University Women’s Mental Health Center (www.womensmentalhealth.emory.edu) that are doing amazing research in this area. Over the coming years we will have more information as to the causes of PD.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with PD but are not sure that the symptoms are PD, you can take an online test to screen for symptoms. The two tests that are often used are the PHQ-9 (Patient Health Questionnaire, http://phqscreeners.com/pdfs/02_PHQ-9/English.pdf) and the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (http://www.womensmentalhealth.org/quiz-are-you-suffering-from-postpartum-depression/).
Of course, however, it is best to speak to your physician about what you are going through.
When clients come into our office they are often concerned about their depression and interested in learning more about treatments that would help them. In our office we use multiple different treatments including but not limited to psychotherapy (talk therapy), support groups, diet and exercise recommendations and even medication.
Untreated maternal depression is not benign. For the woman as an individual depression is very unhealthy for brain and body health. Depression affects our cognition and often causes problems with memory and attention and focus. We tend to have more poor judgment and make worse decisions when we are depressed. This can affect all areas of our lives including all types of relationships and our work world. We also cannot connect well and mother our children the way we should. This can affect our children in terms of their development, behavior and their overall health for their entire lives.
Our office welcomes you. Let us help you and your family truly enjoy this happy time in your lives.”