Everybody’s heard of it, and most new mothers dread it. Postpartum depression. What signs should you look for, and what do you do if it happens to you?
If you’re initially feeling a little bummed out after you get home from the hospital, don’t worry you’re probably just experiencing “The Baby Blues.” Almost every new mother experiences her personal rendition of The Baby Blues – a brief period of melancholy – for a few weeks after giving birth. It’s so common there’s even a comic strip named after it. You’ve just been on a nine-month emotional rollercoaster, and now you have a newborn baby to take care of. No wonder you’re feeling scared and overwhelmed!
But if the weeks and months go by and you’re not feeling any better, you may be dealing with postpartum depression. At least 7 percent of women suffer from postpartum depression, but many never know it. What causes it, and what can you do about it?
Postpartum depression probably strikes because of all the hormonal changes going on in your body. During your pregnancy, your body produces extra amounts of estrogen and progesterone. But soon after your delivery, the hormones are back to their normal, pre-pregnancy levels. This sudden drop in hormones wreaks havoc on your system. Your body can also experiences a sharp decrease in thyroid hormones. If this is the case, you’re in luck your doctor can administer a blood test to see if your thyroid function is responsible, and if it is, he or she can prescribe medicine to fix the problem
The good news about postpartum depression is that if you learn to recognize the symptoms, you can do something about it. For example, studies have shown that fish oil can help alleviate your symptoms. And it’s possible that your body is simply fatigued; sometimes just getting several good nights of sleep can work wonders for your mental state. Enlist the help of your spouse or partner and make sure you’re not on night duty every night. After all, you’ve just spent nine months putting a lot of added strain on your mind and body – you deserve a break.
If your depression has lasted more than a few weeks or you feel it’s severe, don’t be afraid to seek help. Talk to your doctor or midwife. They can evaluate your mental condition and refer you to someone who can help. It might also be helpful to attend one of many support groups available for new mothers. You don’t even have to share your story –sometimes it’s helpful just knowing that you’re not the only one who’s struggling.
Also, remember to take the time each day to fill your own emotional needs. Just because you’re a mother now doesn’t mean you have to completely surrender the identity you had before. In fact, making sure that you’re taken care of is the best way to take care of your newborn baby. You deserve some time and attention, too. And make sure your partner is helping to shoulder the burden. Though it may feel like it, you are not alone.
Visit my blog for more tips on fighting postpartum depression.
Mark Zakowski, M.D.
The Safe Baby System