Understanding & Combating Postpartum Depression
By: Shayla Parker, LCPC
Approximately 15% of women experience significant depression following childbirth.
The percentages are even higher for women who are also dealing with poverty, and can be twice as high for teen parents. Ten percent of women experience depression in pregnancy.
Symptoms can start anytime during pregnancy or the first year postpartum. They differ for everyone, and might include the following:
Feelings of anger or irritability
Lack of interest in the baby
Appetite and sleep disturbance
Crying and sadness
Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
Loss of interest, joy or pleasure in things you used to enjoy
Possible thoughts of harming the baby or yourself
The items listed below put you at a higher risk for developing these illnesses.
A personal or family history of depression, anxiety, or postpartum depression
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
Inadequate support in caring for the baby
Complications in pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
A major recent life event: loss, house move, job loss
Mothers of multiples
Mothers whose infants are in Neonatal Intensive Care (NICU)
Mothers who’ve gone through infertility treatments
Women with a thyroid imbalance
Women with any form of diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational)
ITEM OF IMPORTANT NOTE
Postpartum depression has, thankfully, gotten a lot of good publicity. Sometimes, however, women do not feel depression but they are having symptoms of anxiety during and after pregnancy. This is common and just as important for women to seek treatment if they notice these symptoms as well.
THE GOOD NEWS
Postpartum depression and depression during pregnancy can be temporary and treatable.
WHAT TO DO
Notify your physician of symptoms you are experiencing.
Seek Education: Read books about postpartum depression, seek out websites
(postpartum.net), be involved in online groups
Nutrition: as always everybody’s body is different. Consult your physician for specifics.
Try to avoid caffeine and sugar. Gravitate toward complex carbohydrates and protein.
Exercise & Have Time for Yourself: Our culture tends to react differently to new parents
than other cultures. It is very common and essential in other cultures to have time to
yourself to recharge mentally. It is so important for your health to exercise. It will also
help your baby a great deal because of how much it helps you.
Find Supportive Resources: Some directions to begin looking for support can be (Faith
Community, Healthcare Providers, Home Visiting Support Services, Lactation
Consultants, Mental Health Providers, Postpartum Doulas, Support Groups,
Emergency Service Crisis lines.)
Share with Non-Judgmental Listeners: Verbalization is therapeutic.
Emotional Support: This can be a therapist, friends, family, spouse, group members, and
faith community. Research shows having social support and going to postpartum
support groups can significantly reduce depressive symptoms
Practical Support: physical help with childcare, cooking and housework.
Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Partner or Spouse: Couples counseling
Develop a Plan of Action: Utilizing all of the above strategies. Involve and share this with
the support people in your life.
HOW TO PREPARE IF YOU ARE PREGNANT:
If you are at increased risk, you should discuss these risk factors with your medical
provider so that you can plan ahead for care should you need it.
Education: Research and read about postpartum
Become familiar with local support networks prior to having your baby.
Try to Lessen It: Strengthen your relationship with your partner or spouse. There are
some training workshops that gives couples the tools to be a team when weathering
the joys and stresses of life after baby.
For more information:
QUESTIONS THEY COULD ASK TO PROMPT ME?
How many women experience postpartum depression?
How would someone know if they are experiencing depression during or after
pregnancy? What are the symptoms?
Is anyone at higher risk for developing depression during or after pregnancy?
Are there other symptoms that women may experience during or after pregnancy that
are different than depression?
What can women or couples do if they notice some of these symptoms?
Is there anything women or couples can do to prepare ahead of time?