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Postpartum Depression

What is postpartum or perinatal depression?

In the days and weeks following birth, postpartum depression can dampen the joy and enthusiasm of bringing new life into the world. 

Perinatal conditions aren’t necessarily limited to the days or weeks following the birth of a child. Postpartum depression can begin during pregnancy. Even women who miscarry can experience postpartum conditions, in addition to grieving for their lost child.

Postpartum conditions are extremely common.

Up to 80% of women experience some type of mood disturbance after giving birth.  Symptoms can include fatigue, sadness, anxiety, and distress. Sometimes referred to as the “baby blues,” symptoms are often mild and begin within a few days of delivery. For many, the baby blues are a short-term issue that resolves on its own.

But 1 in 7 mothers experience more significant, long-term symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD).

A tired mom taking care of a newborn baby with postpartum depression

What are some of the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression?

If you experience symptoms of depression after giving birth, you may have postpartum depression (PPD). PPD is diagnosed if you have symptoms within 6 weeks of giving birth.

Symptoms can be mild, moderate, or severe – and everyone’s experience with PPD is different.

Some signs you might notice:

  • Feeling sad, anxious, or “empty”
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Reduced self-confidence or decreasing self-esteem
  • Inability to sleep or feeling extremely tired 
  • Significant weight loss or lack of appetite
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Struggling to feel attached to or bonding with your baby
  • Persistent concerns that you’re not able to properly care for your baby

If you are currently experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, it’s important to dial 988 to get immediate help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.  

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7.

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

It’s important to distinguish between short-term baby blues and more serious postpartum depression.  Your doctor or a mental health care provider will talk to you about your thoughts, feelings, and other issues.

Don’t feel embarrassed if you’re struggling with depression during pregnancy or following the birth of a child. Most women experience changes in their mental health during this time.

It’s common and you deserve support.

As part of an evaluation for postpartum depression, you may:

  • Talk with a professional to complete a screening questionnaire
  • Have blood tests performed to make sure there isn’t an underlying or undiagnosed medical issue that is contributing to your symptoms
  • Schedule other medical tests if indicated.

If you’ve been experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of postpartum depression for longer than 2 weeks, it’s time to seek help.

What are the causes of postpartum depression?

During pregnancy, female hormone levels increase. The higher estrogen and progesterone levels are thought to contribute to perinatal depression. Sudden changes in hormone levels – especially in the 24 hours after the birth or loss of a pregnancy – may cause depression.

Changes to thyroid hormone levels can also be affected by pregnancy and birth. A “low thyroid” can cause feelings of depression. Thyroid levels are easily measured with a simple blood test and medication can provide relief.

Mothers of babies that have health or developmental challenges also tend to experience higher instances of PPD. Complications during pregnancy or during the birth of your child can contribute to your risk of developing PPD. If you and your baby have struggled with breastfeeding you may be feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed.

While very common, postpartum depression isn’t a “normal” part of being a new mom. Postpartum depression is a very real condition and it can be treated.

Can postpartum depression be prevented?

Postpartum depression (PPD) affects women across all ethnicities and socio-economic levels. 

You may be at higher risk of developing PPD if you have a history of depression. For many women, PPD is their first experience with a depressive episode or mood disorder.

Obstetricians and gynecologists now recognize the serious nature of postpartum depression and its effect on women’s health.

Your doctor may screen you for perinatal depression during your pregnancy and into the postpartum period.

While it’s not always possible, having a good support system in place can help prevent PPD. This support system can include family members or friends.

Seeking out a professional counselor or therapist and sharing your feelings can help. 

Don’t let societal pressure and thoughts about how you “should” feel keep you from getting the help you need at any point during or after your pregnancy.What are some of the treatment options for postpartum depression?

What are some of the treatment options for postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is managed and treated differently depending on the severity of your symptoms. 

Treatment options including individual talk therapycognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and even group therapy and support groups have shown effectiveness in supporting new mothers experiencing PPD.

If it is considered safe to do so, you may be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications. It is important to discuss whether you are currently breastfeeding with your provider.

It can take several weeks for medications to reach effectiveness.

At Elite DNA Behavioral Health, we take a holistic approach to developing your PPD treatment plan. We look at everything such as your support system, sleeping habits, lifestyle, and what your body and mind are experiencing. 

Our mental health professionals will address each of these areas. 

Typically, your tailored treatment plan will include therapy, psychiatry services and, as needed, medication.

You’re not alone.

At Elite DNA Behavioral Health, we recognize the seriousness of postpartum depression and anxiety. We know there’s more to it than “just being sad after giving birth”.

Our Founder & CEO, Elizabeth Dosoretz, experienced postpartum depression after the birth of each of her three sons. 

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