As often as we discuss the excitement of pregnancy and how to best care for the mom and her unborn child, our thoughts and conversations rarely center on postpartum depression (PPD). It is hardly the lighthearted topic at baby showers!
According to Science News, “Postpartum depression is the most common complication of pregnancy and childbirth, affecting up to 15 percent of all women within the first three months following delivery. Research has shown that mothers of infants born prematurely have almost double the rates of postpartum depression, particularly during their time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).”
Science has yet to pinpoint a single cause for PPD but we know there are physical and emotional issues at hand. Symptoms develop within a few weeks of giving birth and can continue up to six months after birth if left untreated. Let’s review some common symptoms of PPD:
- feeling overwhelmed and fatigued – wondering if “motherhood” is the right thing for you
- excessive crying and sadness – feeling a deep sense of sadness and crying for no apparent reason
- change in appetite – some new mothers experience a lack of appetite while others may feel better after overeating
- lack of focus/concentration – it may seem difficult to recall certain things and make decisions
- unworthiness – feeling as if you can never live up to certain expectations and never “good enough”
- not as interested in pursuing activities you previously enjoyed
- insomnia or over-sleeping
- thoughts of suicide and/or harming your child play in your mind
There is no other time when caring for yourself and your baby is of utmost priority. If such symptoms persist after two weeks, please contact your physician immediately. Also, if you suspect a friend or a loved one is experiencing PPD, don’t hesitate. Convince her to schedule an appointment with a specialist. It is paramount to seek treatment. We can all agree that it takes a community to take care of loved ones and to have the most positive impact on one’s life. Otherwise, it can linger and potentially lead to a decrease in the bond between you and your angel, have a negative impact on your relationship with your partner and an earlier cessation of breastfeeding or pumping. Fathers may also feel the emotional strain and children may struggle with insomnia, excessive crying and eating difficulties.
There is also data emerging in other disciplines in medicine studying the impact of untreated anxiety and depression showing an increased associated risk for psychosocial issues in children of untreated moms.
In addition to seeking specialized care, please REMEMBER to live your life following the SENSE model of life.
- Sleep – This is challenging with a newborn in the home so plase ask friends and family for assistance. If you are nursing, a good night’s sleep will increase your milk supply.
- Exercise – light exercises such as stretches and basic yoga do wonders for the body and mind (when cleared by your doctor or midwife)
- Nutrition – an anti-inflammatory diet not loaded with carbohydrates and sugar will ease your PPD symptoms and strengthen your immune system. Again if you are nursing, a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables will go a long way
- Stress-reduction – high levels of stress such as a colicky baby or a premature newborn may increase your chances of developing PPD – do what you can to diminish your stress
- Positive emotions – at this critical time, surround yourself with individuals whom you trust. Your inner circle should be supportive and provide assistance however possible.
I am always reminded by the sacrifice women make in our society. It is time to pay attention to this very important disease and to make sure that ALL women are screened and treated as early as symptoms start.