Postpartum depression is a severe form of depression, beginning either during pregnancy or after childbirth. It is a more common problem than people imagine. One large study of ten thousand participant mothers found that one out of every seven mothers with newborns experienced postpartum depression.
Although postpartum depression (PPD) may begin any time in the first year, it typically begins within the first 3 weeks after childbirth. It is unique to every pregnancy and may affect both first time and experienced parents alike. While it most often occurs in mothers, it has also been documented in fathers of newborns as well.
While PPD is a common mental health condition with significant impact, it can exist for months without being treated, and often remains undiagnosed completely. Symptoms of PPD may include severe mood swings, excessive crying, sad feelings, appetite changes, intense anger or irritability, insomnia, fatigue and apathy. To some, the world may seem to just lack color. Individuals suffering from PPD may have difficulty bonding with their new baby or fear they are not a good mother or father. They may feel shame, guilt, worthlessness, or have problems concentrating or thinking clearly.
Generally, if these types of symptoms begin and persist for longer than a two-week period, an evaluation for postpartum depression is recommended. Treatment of PPD usually begins with an assessment by a medical practitioner who will explore your personal history and current symptoms. The doctor may order blood tests to determine if low thyroid hormone levels are impacting your health. An antidepressant medication may be prescribed and/or a referral to a mental health clinician trained in treatment of postpartum depression may be recommended.
General coping strategies that can help with any type of depression include eating healthy, exercising, getting quality sleep, and making sure you are getting “me time” to refuel. With PPD, consider saying “yes please” to offers of caregiving help from trusted others – to watch the baby, run errands, or listen.
Accessing a local support group to share experiences and coping skills may also help. Support groups that provide information, education and emotional feedback are available in most communities and can be accessed by a Google search online. Some groups also work on the internet directly with dialogue and conversational support given. In Topeka, Google lists the Pregnancy and Postpartum Support Group as available at the Topeka Public Library on the 4th Sunday of each month, 3-5 p.m., in room 205.
Remember – multiple research studies show that postpartum depression occurs in 1 out of 7 women (and affects dads too!). Hopefully, just knowing this may help you or someone you care about reach out for help without fear of being labeled a “bad” parent. “You are not alone!” is a phrase to repeat and remember!
By Jan Hurn, LSCSW
Valeo Behavioral Health Care
400 SW Oakley
Topeka, KS 66606
24 Hour Crisis Line
National Suicide Prevention Life Line
Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition
Family Service and Guidance Center (18 and under)
325 SW Frazier
Topeka, KS 66606
24 Hour Crisis Number
Healing after Loss to Suicide Group (HeALS)
Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator