Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression is a concept that is covered during prenatal education; however I think we are falling short in preparing families for the possibility of this condition touching their lives. So many women are suffering undiagnosed with little support, only to find many months or even years later the major impact this condition has had on them and their families.  Clearly, more in-depth discussions and case examples are required prenatally with family systems to truly understand postpartum depression - what it looks like, how to be supportive, and when to reach out for help. In addition, the way in which it is assessed and supported after baby arrives could also use an overhaul - it definitely requires more than a checklist. Here is some helpful information from the Mayo Clinic.

The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions, from excitement and joy to fear and anxiety. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.

Many new moms experience the "baby blues" after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings and crying spells that fade quickly. But some new moms experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression. Rarely, an extreme form of postpartum depression known as postpartum psychosis develops after childbirth.

Postpartum depression isn't a character flaw or a weakness. Sometimes it's simply a complication of giving birth. If you have postpartum depression, prompt treatment can help you manage your symptoms — and enjoy your baby.

Signs and symptoms of depression after childbirth vary, depending on the type of depression.

Baby blues symptoms

Signs and symptoms of the baby blues — which last only a few days to a week or two — may include:

• Mood swings

• Anxiety

• Sadness

• Irritability

• Crying

• Decreased concentration

• Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms

Postpartum depression may appear to be the baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and longer lasting, eventually interfering with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Postpartum depression symptoms may include:

• Loss of appetite

• Insomnia

• Intense irritability and anger

• Overwhelming fatigue

• Loss of interest in sex

• Lack of joy in life

• Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy

• Severe mood swings

• Difficulty bonding with your baby

• Withdrawal from family and friends

• Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

Postpartum psychosis

With postpartum psychosis — a rare condition that typically develops within the first two weeks after delivery — the signs and symptoms are even more severe. Signs and symptoms of postpartum psychosis may include:

• Confusion and disorientation

• Hallucinations and delusions

• Paranoia

• Attempts to harm yourself or your baby

When to seek help

If you're feeling depressed after your baby's birth, you may be reluctant or embarrassed to admit it. But it's important to call your doctor if the signs and symptoms of depression have any of these features:

• Don't fade after two weeks

• Are getting worse

• Make it hard for you to care for your baby

• Make it hard to complete everyday tasks

• Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

If you suspect that you're developing postpartum psychosis, seek medical attention immediately. Don't wait and hope for improvement. Postpartum psychosis may lead to life-threatening thoughts or behaviors.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Postpartum depression isn't generally a condition that you can treat on your own — but you can do some things for yourself that build on your treatment plan and help speed recovery.

• Make healthy lifestyle choices.Include physical activity, such as a walk with your baby, in your daily routine. Eat healthy foods, and avoid alcohol.

• Set realistic expectations. Don't pressure yourself to do everything. Scale back your expectations for the perfect household. Do what you can and leave the rest. Ask for help when you need it.

• Make time for yourself. If you feel like the world is coming down around you, take some time for yourself. Get dressed, leave the house, and visit a friend or run an errand. Or schedule some time alone with your partner.

• Respond positively. When faced with a negative situation, focus on keeping your thoughts positive. Even if an unwanted situation doesn't change, you can change the way you think and behave in response to it — a brief course of cognitive behavioral therapy may help you learn how to do this.

• Avoid isolation. Talk with your partner, family and friends about how you're feeling. Ask other mothers about their experiences. Ask your doctor about local support groups for new moms or women who have postpartum depression.

Remember, the best way to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself.

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