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Strength in Asking for Help: The Treatment of Postpartum Depression

     

Giving birth to a baby can spark a mix of strong emotions in a mother — from wonder and excitement to worry and fear. Hormonal fluctuations, the stress of having a new baby, the physical toll of giving birth and the changes in sleep schedule are more than enough to cause emotional strain.

What is postpartum depression?

More than half of women experience mood changes after giving birth, also known as the “baby blues.” Common feelings that women may experience during this time include those listed above, in addition to feeling stressed, sad, anxious, lonely, tired or weepy. For some women (10-15 percent) such symptoms will be more intense and long-lasting, developing into postpartum depression. Unlike the “baby blues,” postpartum depression is unlikely to go away on its own. Ask for help!

postpartum-depression-mothers-children

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression:

  • No longer finding joy in activities that usually make you happy
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Irritability or anger, lack of patience
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Difficulty with sleep (not just less sleep than usual because of getting up with the baby, but actual difficulty sleeping even when you have the chance)
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Difficulty with concentration and focus
  • Lack of energy (lower than you would expect even with less sleep related to the baby and the physical recovery from childbirth)
  • Not feeling attached to your baby
  • Feeling empty or sad
  • Thoughts of suicide or wanting to be dead

Why ask for help?

Postpartum depression is no one’s fault. It is a very real and treatable complication of giving birth.

While more than 600,000 women each year in the United States experience these symptoms, only 15 percent of these women seek professional help.

If postpartum depression is not treated, it is more likely to develop into long-term depression that can be present for years. In addition, untreated depression can negatively impact your baby. This may seem backwards. Many moms feel they are putting the well-being of their child before their own by “toughing through it.” However, it takes strength and toughness to ask for help. Getting help for yourself can make things better for both you and your baby.

Where to start?

Realize that you are not alone — read stories from other moms who have experienced postpartum depression.

Talk to a mental health provider or your primary health care provider. Recognize that asking for help shows your strength as a mother. Seek out support from all available sources — groups with fellow new moms, your partner, relatives and friends. Be open with those around you about what you are experiencing. Take care of yourself — walk, move around, get exercise, do yoga (once these activities are approved by your health care provider) and remember to get much needed sleep and rest when you have the chance.

For further stories and statistics, visit the Postpartum Progress website.

About the Author

Laura Van Leuven, Medical Student, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
Reviewed by Claudia Reardon, M.D.

Learn more about Postpartum depression

Learn about postpartum depression, including symptoms, risk factors and treatment options.

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