Who is affected by postpartum depression?

Ms. Marcia Starkman
Advanced Practice Nursing
Along with the stats and percentages of which women may be affected by postpartum depression, there is also the effect of postpartum depression on the woman, her partner, her family, and of course, the newborn. It can strike anyone. Many women wonder, "why me?" when they become depressed. In my practice, I have seen high functioning women in management positions become needy and helpless; even unable to structure their days when they become depressed postpartum. It's as if they don't know themselves anymore! And this affects their partner, who wonders what happened to the person s/he knew before the baby was born. The partner may actively grieve this loss and not know what to do to support the new mother. In terms of the family, I see it as a hand. "If one finger on the hand hurts, the whole hand hurts". Postpartum depression can affect the "whole hand", i.e. the entire family. They may need support and education, as well. As far as the newborn goes, there are many conflicting studies about the effect of maternal depression on the newborn. Some say "yes, the newborn can be affected by a depressed mom", however, this is often countered with the fact that if the baby receives care, stimulation, and attention from others (father & family), that can help prevent any impact the mother's depression may have on it.
Polly Dunn

In the days and weeks following childbirth, women are especially prone to the baby blues. The baby blues usually subside in about a month, but can include symptoms like tearfulness, difficulty sleeping, irritability, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed by your increased responsibilities. You will probably continue to feel joy and happiness about the birth of your child, but feelings of sadness creep in as well.

For the majority of women, the baby blues will go away on their own after a few weeks. However, for about 10-20% of women these symptoms will develop into something more serious, postpartum depression. Unlike the baby blues, the symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe and longer lasting and may interfere with your ability to take care of your new baby. Without help, mothers can be left feeling depressed, down, and hopeless for months after the birth of their child. A small percentage of women with postpartum depression may even experience thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.

If you’re a new mom struggling with feelings of depression, there are number of things you can do to help yourself begin to feel better. First, try to spend some time with other adults who care about you. Talk with your spouse, friends, and family about how they can help you with the baby and don’t be afraid to tell them about your feelings. Next, make sure to get as much rest as possible. Try to nap during the day when your baby does so that you can make up for those guaranteed sleepless nights.

Just as you make a routine out of bathing, dressing, and feeding your baby, makes sure that you give yourself a normal routine of showering, getting dressed, and eating at regular intervals. Getting out of the house with your baby is also a good way to improve your mood. You can go for a walk, visit a friend, or even venture out to the store for a much needed change of scenery.

Last but not least, talk to your doctor about your symptoms of depression.  Your obstetrician is always available to answer your questions and talk with you about treatment options. There are medications that your doctor can prescribe to treat postpartum depression, many of which are approved for use while breastfeeding.  In addition, individual therapy provided by a licensed psychologist or licensed professional counselor is an effective treatment for postpartum depression, especially when combined with medication.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.