CSP Team Note: We recently talked to Dr. Tamara Meekins, an OB/GYN at Union OB/GYN – Waxhaw, about postpartum depression. This is such an important topic for all of us to learn more about – whether you’re about to have a baby or are friends with someone with a newborn. A big thank you to Dr. Meekins for taking the time for this interview.
What is postpartum depression (PPD)?
Postpartum depression is a group of symptoms characterized by mood disturbance, inability to control emotions, emotional, mental or physical suffering, and loss of self-esteem associated with childbirth.
What are the symptoms?
A new mother may feel anxious, irritable, angry, guilty, worthless or overwhelmed. They may sleep too much or too little. They can have a depressed mood most of the time, they may experience changes in their appetite, weight or desire to have sex. They may have difficulty concentrating or have frequent thoughts of death, suicide or harming the baby. Five of these symptoms must be present to make the diagnosis.
How common is it?
8-10% of women may experience postpartum depression.
What is the difference between PPD and depression?
Postpartum depression usually occurs within twelve months of having a baby. Many of the symptoms otherwise overlap.
How soon after birth can symptoms surface and last?
Most women may not realize that symptoms can actually start during pregnancy. Of the people who develop depression, one study found that 38% of patients developed symptoms prior to delivery and 42% after delivery. Twenty percent had depression prior to pregnancy.
If symptoms start after delivery, it’s most often within the first few months with 54% of people diagnosed in the first month, 40% in months 2-4, and 6% in months 5-12.
Some people may experience postpartum blues, which is a mild form of depression that can start after delivery but usually resolves after 2 weeks.
What are some signs that a new mom might be suffering from it?
The new mom may not want to participate in activities that used to be enjoyable for her. She may have panic attacks or severe anxiety. She may cry often or have trouble bonding with the baby. She may withdraw from family and friends.
What are treatment options?
Without treatment, the depression can last for many months without getting better. Treatment can be a combination of psychiatric counseling, support with transitioning into motherhood and antidepressant medication. The mom should be hospitalized if she has thoughts of harming herself or the baby.
What should a woman do if she believes she might be suffering from PPD?
She should not blame herself for feeling depressed. She should discuss these concerns with her doctor to help determine if treatment is needed. Sometimes treatment may be as simple as tracking mood symptoms and keeping a diary or could involve taking medication. She should not delay getting help as often the symptoms do not go away quickly on their own.
Are there any resources that are especially helpful to women who are suffering from PPD?
Postpartum Support International
Phone: 800-944-4PPD (800-944-4773) / Website: http://www.postpartum.net
For information on treatment, support groups and resources in the United States and 25 countries.
Postpartum Education for Parents
Phone: 805-967-7636 / Website: http://www.sbpep.org
A 24-hour support line is available for one-to-one support, from basic infant care to the baby blues and other perinatal topics.
(This is a long distance call.)
National Mental Health Association
Phone: 800-969-NMHA (800-969-6642) / Website: http://www.nmha.org
For information on Perinatal Depression, including a locator to find a mental health center or provider in your area.
SAMHSA National Mental Health Information Center
Phone: 800-789-2647 / Internet address: http://mentalhealth.samhsa.gov
For information on depression, including a locator to find a mental health center in your area.
Beyond the Blues, by Shoshana S. Bennett and Pec Indman (Moodswing Press, 2006)
Available in Spanish
Beyond the Birth, by Dawn Gruen, Rex Gentry, Abby Meyers, and Sandra Jolley (Depression After Delivery, 2003)
Books are available online at: http://perinatalsupport.org/for-parents/informationresources/