As many as one in 10 women in the United States suffer from symptoms of postpartum depression, yet this common condition remains somewhat taboo.
“Postpartum depression tends to go unrecognized because families are either embarrassed to talk about their emotions, or don’t know what feelings are normal after pregnancy,” says Evelyn Rodriguez, MD, OB/GYN on staff at Adventist Hinsdale and Adventist La Grange Memorial hospitals.
Myth: Everyone gets the baby blues after giving birth.
Fact: Intense feelings of depression after childbirth are not normal.
A certain amount of restlessness, tears and mood swings are normal, and usually subside after the first week postpartum. First-time moms or those with a family history of depression are usually at higher risk for developing postpartum depression. Check with your OB/GYN if you have any of the following symptoms lasting longer than two weeks:
- Intense feelings of depression and anxiety
- Difficulty making decisions
- Insomnia, unrelated to newborn care
- Loss of pleasure in activities
- Changes in appetite
- Thoughts of suicide
- Lack of concern for the baby
Family members should also be watchful for these symptoms, which can appear at any time within the baby’s first year. “New mothers tend to overlook how they’re feeling or may even think it is normal to feel as they do,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “It’s important that the family also pay attention to the mom’s needs, look for any personality changes, and encourage her to seek help from a physician.”
Myth: Postpartum depression is a genetic disorder.
Fact: Family history is not destiny.
If depression appears in your family tree, you may have an elevated risk. But that doesn’t guarantee you’ll develop the disorder. If you have a family history of postpartum depression, watch for early symptoms of the disease and be proactive about how you manage it – whether that means reducing stress, getting more exercise, seeking counseling, or talking with your OB/GYN.
Myth: You cannot prevent postpartum depression.
Fact: Planning can curb your risk.
Hormonal and psychosocial changes during pregnancy could trigger postpartum depression. When possible, avoid stressors, such as a big move, a new job or arguments. Build a strong support network of friends, family and health care professionals. Plan a few days where you can take an hour or two to relax while someone in your network watches the baby.
Adventist Midwest Health’s maternal care team also monitors mothers during pregnancy to stop emotional problems from escalating. “Throughout a woman’s pregnancy, we’re trying to gauge for symptoms of depression,” Dr. Rodriguez says. “If we suspect anything, we can talk about coping strategies before the baby even arrives.”
Myth: Men can’t suffer from postpartum depression.
Fact: Fathers also undergo life changes.
Paternal postpartum depression develops in 8 percent of men within the first three months of their baby’s birth; 26 percent within three to six months; and 9 percent within six to 12 months. “Fathers undergo a lot of adjustments in their life and just as easily overwhelmed with the demands of parenting,” Dr. Rodriguez says. Treat it just as you would maternal postpartum depression and start by talking with an OB/GYN or primary care physician.
Myth: Medication is the only way to truly feel better.
Fact: “Talk therapy” can be just as effective.
Antidepressant medication is only one tool patients can use to manage depression. Counseling and family support groups can encourage women and men to get to the root of their emotions and make a change to feel better. Adventist Midwest Health provides a supportive team to teach parents how to cope with feelings of depression. “Obstetricians can work with therapists, counselors, psychiatrists and the patient’s primary care physician to put together the best treatment plan,” Dr. Rodriguez says.
To learn more about postpartum depression resources at Adventist Midwest Health, call 866-533-7968.