If you watch Nashville (which I love), you know that the character Juliet Barnes is dealing with post partum depression. Unfortunately, so is Hayden Panettiere who plays Juliet. Fortunately, she recognized her problems and is seeking professional help in a treatment center. Post partum depression occurs in up to 10-20% of new mothers and the signs and symptoms may occur from days to months after your baby is born, but unfortunately in up to 50% of cases the symptoms may go unrecognized.
It is not unusual for a new mother to experience post partum “baby blues” which may cause many differing symptoms including anxiety, sadness, mood swings, crying, difficulty sleeping and a feeling of being overwhelmed. In fact, what new parent doesn’t feel overwhelmed at times (maybe throughout parenting). But these “baby blues” usually only last a few days to a few weeks and then improve.
At first, post partum depression may mimic “baby blues”, but the signs and symptoms are usually more severe and last longer. Post partum depression causes not only depression and mood swings, but excessive crying, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from family and friends, irritability, anger, difficulty concentrating, feelings of inadequacy and severe anxiety and panic attacks. It effects different people in different ways, but in many cases it interferes with a mother’s ability to care for her baby of to even handle daily tasks. In some severe cases it causes suicidal thoughts, or even thoughts of harming the baby.
While it remains unclear as to the cause of post partum depression it seems there are probably multiple factors at work including a drop in hormones (both estrogen and progesterone) after delivery as well as emotional issues (lack of sleep, appetite, anxiety, body image concerns)…and all of these probably play a role. People who have had a past history of depression also seem to be at more risk.
I have had patients with fairly severe post partum depression, and several have required hospitalization. The most important thing is to recognize the symptoms and to ask for help!! It is not a sign of being an “inadequate or bad mother”, but rather an illness that requires treatment and should never be ignored. It requires not only medical support, but family and friends support.
I am currently seeing a new mother who is dealing with a post partum depression. She knows the symptoms and had hoped that they would not re-occur after the birth of her second child. She knew that she had “a higher risk” of developing post part depression as she had it after the birth of her first baby ….but she had hoped and prayed that it would not strike twice. As “smart” as she is intellectually, it has still been emotionally difficult for her to give the baby a bottle at night so that she may get more sleep, and to let others help her with her two year old..as she feels “guilty” that she is not available all of the time. She relies on a lot of support from her husband and other family members and is “trying to listen” to her doctors, and she has started medication and is seeing a therapist. In other words she is being proactive and doing everything she can! Kudos to her.
If you or any of your friends has symptoms of post partum depression don’t ignore it or “fake it” that you are okay…left untreated the consequences could be serious. GET HELP….it is so important for both you and your child.