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Help With Postpartum Depression

Curated and updated for the community by APA

For most women, having a baby is a very exciting, joyous, and often anxious time. But for women with postpartum, or peripartum, depression it can become very distressing and difficult. Postpartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite. It carries risks for the mother and child.

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Postpartum Progress

My sister had a baby a couple of weeks ago and I can see she’s not herself and is hurting. I don’t want to offend her by suggesting she get help, how can I help her?

When someone we love is suffering, it's natural to want to give advice. And at the same time, we may fear that our unsolicited advice will put them on the defense. However, given that the risks for untreated peripartum depression are so great, including preterm birth and social, emotional, and cognitive deficits in the baby years later, it is crucial our loved one receive timely support. Some thoughts on how to help your sister: offer to spend time with her, let her take naps, join her for a walk, allow her to engage in self-care in the way she finds most effective (such as taking a shower, eating a meal in silence or with a friend or partner, or getting out of the house for a manicure or haircut).

Ask her how she is sleeping, and how her mood is. Let her know you are not judging her and you are there to help — empathize, validate and normalize her experience. For example, you can say: “I can only imagine what you’re going through,” or “This must be a really rough time,” or “You are doing such a great job.” Read More

Is it possible for a new father to experience peripartum depression?

Absolutely. A new baby is an immense joy as well as a lot of work! It can be a stressor for the entire family. About 4 percent of fathers will experience symptoms of postpartum depression. New fathers with a personal or family history of depression, those feeling unprepared and those dealing with unemployment/ financial difficulties may be at greater risk. Struggling with work-life balance, difficulties with communication and division of labor in the family can all exacerbate the transition into fatherhood. Read More

I am pregnant and have been diagnosed with peripartum depression. In addition to the psychotherapy my doctor recommended, what can I do for myself to keep me and my baby healthy?

Get as much support as possible, for example look for a new moms’ group or even the second or third time moms’ groups through your local hospital. Try to line up several reliable family members or friends to help or get hired help. Plan as much in advance as possible, take shifts, make selfcare a priority. Spend 15 minutes a day checking in with your partner about non-baby related issues. The basics are key—eating well, sleep, and exercise within reason. Shoulder rubs from your partner, and if you can afford to splurge, a massage, can help. Touch can be very relaxing and soothing, especially with all the aches and pains of our bodies creating and carrying another human for almost a year! Setting realistic expectations, working on communication, asking for help, learning relaxation techniques (such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, mindfulness and yoga) can also help. Consider talking with your doctor about medication in moderate to serious cases. Read More

Sudeepta-Varma-MD-Expert

About the Expert

Sudeepta Varma, M.D., PC, FAPA is a board certified psychiatrist with a private practice in Manhattan. She is also a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center and a frequent media contributor. www.doctorsuevarma.com

Patient Stories

Maya is a 32-year-old fit, vibrant lawyer. She had been married for more than two years and was expecting her first child, a baby boy. She had a history of depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

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Editor's Choice

MAY 17, 2017

Mom shares photos showing 2 sides of postpartum depression

WLS-TV

One mom is hoping that a pair of intimate portraits will help spread awareness and paint a more complete picture of postpartum depression. Kathy DiVincenzo shared one image of herself looking disheveled and staring blankly in a messy playroom with her two young children. In the next, she's posed in the same playroom - this time, her hair is done, she's fully dressed, and every toy is put away.

MAY 12, 2017

We Need To Stop Saying Postpartum Depression Is The Same As Depression

GOOD Magazine

But she wasn’t depressed—instead, Papajohn was suffering from postpartum depression, a condition that is distinct from major depressive disorder. While the many of the symptoms are similar (sad mood, restlessness, poor concentration), PPD isn’t merely an extension of depression, as a recent review published in Trends in Neurosciences confirms. It involves distinct changes to the brain, which suggest that PPD is a separate biological disease, and may even require distinct treatment.

MAY 12, 2017

CU researcher finds mindfulness techniques, lay counseling can help postpartum depression

The Denver Post

For a woman experiencing postpartum depression, other women — women who have been there — can play a critical role in her mental health care, according to research from a University of Colorado Boulder psychologist.

Resources

Physician Review By:

Ranna Parekh, M.D., M.P.H.
March 2017