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More Than A Feeling - The Struggle of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression. Baby Blues. Postpartum Thyroiditis. These are three terms most pregnant women aren't focusing on while expecting a new member of their family.


For many women, pregnancy is an exciting time. We spend countless hours imagining, planning, and preparing for our new squishy bundle of joy to arrive. Pregnancy is the marathon and birth is the finish line. But what happens after you deliver your precious package, and you don't feel quite right? What happens when you realize that pregnancy was really just a sprint to the marathon that is motherhood? Baby blues and postpartum depression is much more than just a “feeling” or a woman being “over emotional”. Christina Hibbert, PsY.D states that during pregnancy, a woman’s hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone are around 20-30 times greater than a woman who is not pregnant. After delivery, these hormone levels suddenly drop, essentially demanding a mother’s body to now reset and function as a non pregnant woman. These two diagnosis are much more than just a feeling

Baby I've Got The Blues - Defining and Treating Baby Blues

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) 80% of mom's experience some form of the baby blues. These mom's experience feelings such as overwhelmed, anxiety, sadness, and irritability as well as decreased ability to focus, a change in appetite, trouble sleeping (obviously, considering there is a newborn living with you now) and some serious mood swings. Baby blues appears a few days after birth and can last up to two weeks. Treatment for baby blues include rest, asking for help, making time for yourself—even if it’s a 5 minute hot shower, and maintaining a healthy diet. Women who are experiencing some form of baby blues can maintain optimism as baby blues is not a long term mood disorder.

Why Can't I Feel Happy? - Diagnosing Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression would be diagnosed if a mother was experiencing baby blues emotions longer than 2 weeks. Women who suffer from postpartum depression experience similar feelings to those who experience baby blues, except these feelings are magnified and are much more intense. Behaviors such as difficulty bonding with her newborn, withdrawing from family and friends, feelings of guilt and shame, and thoughts of suicide separate postpartum depression from baby blues.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that 1 out of every 9 postpartum women will suffer from postpartum depression. Women who have a history of depression/family history of depression, bipolar disorder, difficulty breastfeeding, financial struggles, a weak support system, teen mothers, pre-term birth, and a prior history of postpartum depression are at a higher risk for developing postpartum depression. A health care provider can diagnose postpartum depression through a screening questionnaire as well as bloodwork. Bloodwork is necessary because pregnancy can affect the thyroid gland.

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Could It Be Something Else? - Postpartum Thyroiditis

Postpartum thyroiditis causes women to have high levels of anti-thyroid antibodies (in plain English—molecules that are now attacking your thyroid). By checking thyroid levels, the health care provider can provide ways to resolve the abnormal thyroid function. Postpartum thyroiditis symptoms mimic those of postpartum depression. Distinguishing between the two is crucial for proper treatment. Once postpartum depression is diagnosed there are a few options for treatment. Anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medications are commonly prescribed to help combat the body’s inability to adjust to the rapid decrease in hormones.

Ready To Tackle The Tears -- Postpartum Depression Treatments

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) claim that women who combine an antidepressant/anxiety medication with therapy sessions have a 90% success rate in overcoming postpartum depression. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol committee states that certain anti-depressants are proven safe to take while breastfeeding. Always discuss with your health care provider the best prescribed medication for you as well as your baby before taking anything. Other forms of treatments for postpartum depression include proper rest and nutrition, asking for help, daily exercise – just walking baby around the block in the stroller is a great starting point, and talking with her support system about her thoughts and emotions. Herbal/Natural treatment include St. John’s Wart and Omega-3 fatty acid. The ADAA states that there has not been sufficient studies to support the effectiveness of alternative treatment. With proper treatment , postpartum depression resolves within 6 months (Mayo Clinic). Unfortunately, even with the appropriate treatment, postpartum depression can last much longer and sometimes develop into chronic depression. (Mayo Clinic).

Postpartum depression can be very isolating for a new mother, or an experienced mother with a new baby. Feelings of worthlessness, anger, despair, and shame can make her feel as though she’s being held underwater and struggling to breathe.

Postpartum Depression Support

There are many resources for postpartum depression support groups available online through sites such as Postpartumprogress.com Take heart all postpartum mommas, you are not alone. The first step to wellness is opening your mouth. Speak with your partner, family, friends, and eventually your healthcare provider. As a postpartum depression survivor, I can assure you, it does get better.