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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.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

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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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AUG 11, 2017

What Your OB-GYN Wants You to Know About Postpartum Depression

Romper

Pregnancy and motherhood can be very isolating. You're expected to be this perfect bastion of all that is good in the world, even if it feels like you're barely holding it together. But you're not alone — and there's help. For some moms, it can be uncomfortable or scary to talk about how you're feeling with your doctor.

AUG 7, 2017

'It’s hard to talk about the bad stuff:’ Discussing postpartum depression, what can be done to help

St Louis Public Radio

Research by the Centers for Disease Control finds that one in nine women experience postpartum depression, a depression that occurs after having a baby. Some postpartum depression experiences last longer and are felt in different ways than others. Dr. Matthew Broom, pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital said that anywhere between 15 and 30 percent of women experience some sort of postpartum depression.

AUG 4, 2017

Maternal depression is getting more attention — but still not enough

Washington Post

At least 1 in 7 women experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy or in the first year after birth, making mental-health disorders the most common complication of pregnancy. Despite this, maternal depression remains vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated, with just 15 percent of women affected seeking professional help.

Resources

Physician Review By:

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