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Monday, June 21, 2021

Beyond the Baby Blues: Postpartum Depression

Mother holding a newborn baby

By Mary L. Barber, CNM


Throughout your pregnancy, you experience tremendous changes physically, hormonally and emotionally. Your body is dedicated to the life forming over the course of about 40 weeks. But after you deliver, you go through just as many changes in a much shorter timeframe, including a sudden dramatic drop in hormones, while also recovering from delivery and caring for a newborn, which can be exhausting and stressful.


Understandably, this can be somewhat of a shock to your system and result in symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, sadness and irritability, collectively known as the baby blues. Most new moms experience this at some point over the first couple of weeks, but many women suffer from something more, postpartum depression, which, while also very prevalent (it affects one in nine new mothers), requires attention.


Postpartum Depression Basics

It’s important to know that whether you experience the baby blues or postpartum depression, you are not weak or failing at being a mom. There are real physiological reasons for these symptoms, and you are far from alone in feeling the way you do. Fortunately, help is available.


Most moms feel overwhelmed at some point and have trouble sleeping, eating and concentrating. However, if the symptoms are intense or last longer than a couple weeks, or if you find you have trouble bonding with your baby or handling daily tasks, it’s important to talk to your care provider as soon as possible. Untreated, postpartum depression can last many months and interfere with your ability to care for your baby and yourself.


Other signs of postpartum depression may include:

·         Depression or severe mood swings

·         Excessive crying

·         Withdrawing from family and friends

·         Inability to sleep

·         Overwhelming fatigue, loss of energy or sleeping too much

·         Loss of appetite or overeating

·         Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you usually enjoy

·         Intense irritability and anger

·         Feelings of worthlessness, fear, shame, guilt, inadequacy or hopelessness

·         Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

·         Severe anxiety and panic attacks

Ask for Help

If you experience any of these symptoms or worse, talk to your health care provider. Treatment ranges based on the severity of your symptoms. For the baby blues, getting as much rest as you can, asking friends and family for help, and connecting with other new moms can go a long way. For postpartum depression, talk therapy, antidepressants or a combination of both reduce symptoms and the risk for chronic depression and helps you better care for and bond with your baby.


Although rare, postpartum psychosis develops in some moms and requires immediate help. If you experience disorientation, obsessive thoughts, hallucinations or paranoia, or if you are behaving recklessly or have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek help immediately from a loved one to care for your baby and call 911 or your local emergency assistance number to get help.


Although the media often portrays new motherhood as a time of bliss and bonding, the reality for most women can be more of a rollercoaster. We’re here to help. We’ll ask about your thoughts and feelings when you come in for regular postpartum appointments, but if you have concerns in between, call our office with any questions or to schedule an additional appointment.