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Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression

For many women, having a baby doesn't bring the joyous feelings they expected, instead it brings episodes of hopelessness and depression. Becoming a new mother is exciting and overwhelming, and a lot of women have "baby blues" after birth - mild depression that lasts for a short period of time. Postpartum depression (PPD) is more severe, lasts longer than two weeks, and includes symptoms like fatigue, tearfulness, irritability, insomnia and appetite change. The new mother might also have feelings of extreme guilt and worthlessness, anxiety attacks, and a loss of interest in everyday activities.

PPD is caused by changes in hormone levels after pregnancy. Every pregnant woman is susceptible to PPD, although women with a history of depression or limited partner support face an added risk. Sometimes, women with PPD have thoughts of suicide, or even harming their babies, but are extremely frightened by these feelings and will not act on them. However, postpartum psychosis is a condition where a mother actually acts on these thoughts, harming herself or her baby. If you believe that you might hurt your baby, or yourself, call 911 or a suicide hotline right away.

PPD is even more overwhelming because new mothers must take care of an infant and often suffer from sleeplessness due to a colicky or fussy baby. The added stresses of motherhood, in combination with the physical symptoms of PPD, can be very isolating and debilitating. Some mothers have visions of leaving their family and new baby, or become paranoid that something horrible will happen to their child, and refuse to leave her alone for even a short period of time.

PPD is usually treated with antidepressants and counselling. Mothers with PPD are also encouraged to exercise, get as much sleep as they can, and eat healthy foods. A good support system is also essential to recovery from PPD. Symptoms can often be relieved after only a few weeks of therapy and medication, but left untreated, PPD can cause serious problems for mother and baby. Mothers with untreated PPD often can't care for their babies properly, or can't share important bonding experiences in the first months of life.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms after the birth of your baby, see your doctor. Feelings of PPD can be terrifying, and many moms feel that there is something wrong with them, or that they will be seen as an unsuitable parent. This is not the case! Physicians are well-equipped to deal with PPD, and can provide effective treatment. If you get the support you need, you can begin to enjoy a healthy and fulfilling relationship with your newborn.


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