Goshen News, Goshen, IN

June 26, 2013

FIT FAMILIES: Post-partum depression: Causes, symptoms, treatment


— Post-partum depression is a temporary condition related to pregnancy and childbirth. PPD isn’t a character flaw or a weakness. About 80 percent of women have the “baby blues” after delivery and 10 to 16 percent of those will develop PPD.

Depression is a treatable condition and the sooner you seek help the sooner you’ll feel better. It is important to report any symptoms of depression to your medical provider as soon as possible.

Symptoms of “baby blues” may appear several days after delivery and resolve by day 10 to 12 without medical treatment. If you have baby blues you are not alone. More than half of all pregnant women experience temporary mild symptoms of depression mixed with feelings of happiness after delivery. Symptoms include sadness, anxiety, insomnia, tearfulness, irritability and trouble sleeping. A certain amount of these emotions and mood swings are normal during the first days after childbirth, usually peaking around day four and lasting fewer than two weeks.

Symptoms of post-partum depression may include loss of appetite, insomnia, lack of joy in your life, severe mood swings, withdrawal from family and friends, overwhelming fatigue, irritability, loss of energy, anger, difficulty concentrating and trouble making decisions. For PPD to be diagnosed the symptoms must develop within four weeks of childbirth and include five or more symptoms of depression. Symptoms of PPD may follow baby blues and may last from several weeks to a year.

No definite cause of PPD has been established. Estrogen and progesterone, female reproductive hormones, increase tenfold during pregnancy. After birth the production of these hormones and others drops significantly which may trigger PPD. Research has suggested physical, emotional and lifestyle factors also play a role. Women are at increased risk for PPD if they have a history of depression or anxiety or previous PPD. If you have a history of depression, especially PPD, talk to your medical provider as soon as you know you are pregnant. Depression can be managed during pregnancy and is very important to have under control before childbirth.

Treatment and recovery time vary for PPD, depending on the severity of the depression. The earlier it is detected the earlier treatment can begin and improvement felt. PPD can be managed with support groups, counseling and medication. PPD isn’t a condition you can treat on your own, but you can do some things for yourself that build on your treatment plan and help speed recovery.

Here are some suggestions:

• Consider lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, healthy eating and avoiding alcohol. Exercise helps improve mood by releasing your body’s endorphins.

• Set realistic expectations and don’t pressure yourself to do everything; ask for help when you need it.

• Schedule visits with family and friends. Isolation can make depression worse.

• Schedule time outside if weather permits. Have all shades and blinds in your house opened during waking hours.

• Make time for yourself and your partner. Have family or friends stay with baby and do something you enjoy. Keep communication open with your partner and take time to enjoy each other without baby.

• Don’t overdo it. Get as much rest and sleep as possible. Fatigue can increase depression. A good rule is to rest or sleep when baby does and arrange for help at home the first several days and as needed. A good plan for new moms to follow is to take care of baby and themselves, and let others do the cooking, cleaning, laundry and other household work.

• Focus on keeping your thoughts positive. You can change the way you think, behave and respond to difficult situations.

• Before baby is born develop a plan for help at home after delivery. This will decrease stress and tension when you’re feeling fatigued in the early days after delivery.

• Antidepressants are a proven treatment for depression and some are safe to take while breast feeding. Talk to your medical provider about what treatment is best for you. Many times it is a combination of treatments that help the most. Contact your medical provider to locate support groups near you or to be referred for counseling.