A new baby usually means excitement, gifts and visits from family and friends, along with the inevitable weariness and a loss of sleep. But for some new mothers it also means a type of depression called postpartum depression. With hormones all over the place, many new mothers experience the baby blues. Mood swings, anxiety and the annoying habit of crying over just about anything are all completely normal. For about 10 percent of new moms, however, the baby blues turn into a more serious problem called postpartum depression. If you are a new mom experiencing this fairly common emotional disorder, the good news is that postpartum depression is usually short-term and good treatment is available.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include a loss of appetite, inability to sleep, irritability, severe mood swings, no interest in sexual relations, feeling inadequate, withdrawal and problems bonding with the new baby. A few women experience postpartum psychosis, a rare and extremely serious condition, where the new mother is confused and disoriented. She may have hallucinations, and she may attempt to hurt herself or the baby. This should be considered an emergency situation, and the woman should get help immediately.
Many new mothers feel embarrassed and ashamed to admit they are experiencing postpartum depression symptoms during what many see as such an exciting part of life. But this condition can’t be helped. Many causes factor into postpartum depression, including dramatic hormonal changes and lifestyle problems, such as demanding older children, financial problems and issues with a spouse. If you’ve experienced clinical depression in the past or you’ve gone through recent stressful events, you’re more likely to get postpartum depression. But good treatment will ease you through this phase. And the sooner you receive help, the sooner you can start to feel like your old self and being to enjoy your new baby.
Medication is an important part of the treatment plan for postpartum depression. There are several different antidepressants that are quite effective. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, better known as SSRIs, are the standard drugs used. By boosting the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, depression decreases and good feelings increase. Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are commonly prescribed SSRIs. These medications are usually considered to be safe while breast-feeding, but your doctor should make the final decision. You may need to weigh the benefits of breast-feeding against the severity of your postpartum depression and the helpfulness of an antidepressant. Some women may need hormone replacement therapy. Again, remember that any medication you take will eventually go to your baby if you are nursing.
Psychological counseling is also a good treatment for postpartum depression and is often used in conjunction with medication. A clinical psychologist or licensed clinical social worker can listen to your concerns and teach you ways to cope with your emotions during this volatile time in your life. It may be helpful to bring your husband in to some of your counseling sessions.
While postpartum depression does require professional intervention, there are plenty of things you can do at home to recover faster. Follow a healthy diet, exercise and get plenty of rest. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Relax your standards. The house doesn’t need to be perfect, and it’s certainly all right to skip makeup. When the baby sleeps, take a quick nap yourself.
It’s also important to talk about your feelings. There may be support groups in your town for moms experiencing postpartum depression. Explain how you’re feeling to your husband. Ask him to take on a little extra baby care to give you some down time on the weekend. Postpartum depression rarely lasts more than a few months. With the proper treatment, you will get better and begin to enjoy the new addition to your family.