Raging hormones and a brand new baby can make for a large case of life interrupted -- and, sadly, for some new moms, this can turn into postpartum depression (PPD).
What is postpartum depression?
There’s a big difference between what’s considered the “baby blues” and PPD. About 80 percent of new moms experience these baby blues, according to the Child Center and Adult Services, a mental health counseling organization in Gaithersburg, Maryland. And the symptoms can include crying for no apparent reason, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, impatience and a feeling of letdown.
PPD may be the diagnosis, however, when such symptoms last for more than two weeks or become even more intense, resulting in feelings of panic, guilt or hopelessness. Other signs of PPD can include a loss of self-esteem, loss of appetite, inexplicable crying and sleep problems. Be aware that PPD doesn’t always strike immediately -- it can settle in months after birth. And know that a mother has elevated risk factors of developing PPD if she has a history of depression or other mood disorders.
Preparing for postpartum depression
Awareness is your biggest weapon in preparing for a potential case of PPD. "Put together a wellness plan before the baby comes," says Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies and Pregnant on Prozac. Enlist the help of others, including your partner, family and friends, who can not only provide emotional support, but can also recognize the symptoms of PPD and encourage you to seek medical help should the situation come to that.
Especially if you have experienced depression in the past, connect with a mental health professional who specializes in postpartum issues. It’s better to have someone at the ready should you need their help. Discuss, too, your expectations with your partner about who will handle what daily tasks after the baby arrives so that mom can get suitable sleep, nutrition and exercise -- all of these things can help combat the onset of PPD.
Speak up when you need to
New moms may feel like they’re supposed to be able to do it all. But the isolation that can sometimes accompany new motherhood, as well as the stress of this role, can spur extreme emotions and make them seem insurmountable for some women. Don’t ever be afraid to admit that you’re not feeling quite right. PPD is 100 percent treatable, even if you’re nursing. While many pediatricians recommend natural options first like light therapy and a diet high in DHA, medication is sometimes necessary to treat PPD. "Experts agree that if a woman truly needs an antidepressant to be well, she can still breastfeed if she chooses," says Bennett.