Expecting a baby? Congratulations!
The weeks and months ahead can be an emotional roller coaster. You’ll experience joy, fear and maybe some anxiety — then you may repeat the emotions.
After giving birth, most new moms feel a little blue. That’s quite common. The excitement of pregnancy shifts to taking on many challenges you may never have faced before.
Some call these mild feelings of depression “baby blues.” If you have these feelings, they usually go away in a few days or a week or two. No treatment is generally needed.
For some new moms, and a few dads, too, the blue feelings can stretch on for a longer period after birth. The feelings can be deeper. The mom may be anxious, fearful, sad, panicky or withdrawn. This may be postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a mood disorder. It’s a common condition that affects up to one in five new mothers. Estimates for exact numbers are difficult since some cases go untreated and unreported.
We don’t yet know the disorder’s cause. We suspect that hormonal changes and the stress of caring for a new baby have roles. Genetic and/or biological factors and social factors are also thought to play a role.
Postpartum depression can start shortly after the child’s birth or can start any time within the first year after birth.
Feeling blue does not mean you’re a bad mother or that you don’t love your child. It means you have a mood disorder that’s treatable.
If you notice the indications of postpartum depression, promptly see your health care provider. The sooner you address the disorder, the better for you, your baby and your parenting partner.
The symptoms of postpartum depression can last from a few weeks to a year after birth or longer, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the treatment received. The symptoms can range from mild to severe, and can include:
More serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:
Postpartum depression isn’t limited to first-time moms. It can happen after the birth of any child. You may be at greater risk for postpartum depression if you have:
Treatment for postpartum depression can include counseling/talk therapy, medication or a combination of both.
Counseling — you’ll talk one-on-one with your mental health professional who may be a counselor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. Counseling can include:
Medications — can include medications that adjust the brain chemistry that affects mood regulation. If you’re prescribed antidepressants, it’s common for them to take a few weeks to be most effective. If your provider recommends medication, it’s a good idea to discuss how the medication may affect your baby if you’re nursing.
If you — or someone you care about — display postpartum depression symptoms, see a health care provider. If needed, you’ll be referred to a mental health care professional.
You will be able to work through postpartum depression and get back to the excitement and joys of parenting. Remember, there is hope. You are not alone.