Postpartum Depression and the Baby Blues

Although the holidays are a time of joyfulness, they are also a time of high levels of stress for many of us. Not to mention the fact that it is so dark and dreary outside! Winter is also a common time for depression symptoms to sneak up on us.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that affects women and can occur anytime up to one year after having a baby.  Women with postpartum depression have such strong feelings of sadness, despair, and anxiety. These feelings are so powerful that they make it difficult for the mother to perform normal daily activities such as taking care of themselves or their baby.  Postpartum depression affects about 1 in 10 women after giving birth to their baby.  Some reasons women get postpartum depression can be related to changes in your hormones following childbirth, if you have had depression in the past, fatigue, stressful life events, or other emotional factors.

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression may include:

  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • irritability or anger
  • overwhelming fatigue
  • lack of joy in life
  • feelings of shame, guilt, or inadequacy
  • severe mood swings
  • difficulty bonding with your baby
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

What are the baby blues?

The postpartum or baby blues begin about 2-3 days after the birth of a newborn and can last up to one to two weeks.  Women with the baby blues can feel depressed, anxious, and upset or angry with their partners, the baby, or other family members.  Some mothers have said, “I was watching a commercial on television and I started crying. What’s wrong with me?”  This is a very normal and typically goes away in a few days.

The signs of the baby blues may include:

  • crying for no apparent reason
  • anxiety
  • mood swings
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • crying
  • decreased concentration
  •  trouble sleeping

Where can I get help?

At HealthNet, we encourage and schedule all moms who have delivered to follow-up with their certified nurse midwife, women’s health nurse practitioner, or physician around 3-6 weeks following the birth of their baby for a postpartum visit. At this visit we will ask you questions to screen for postpartum depression. Treatment for postpartum depression is available and may include talking with a counselor or use of antidepressant medications (medications that balance the chemicals in the brain and control moods), or both.  HealthNet offers behavioral health counseling and psychiatric care services. For more information, call a HealthNet location near you.

Another excellent resource is Birdie Meyer, who is the Coordinator of the Perinatal Mood Disorders Program at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis, Indiana.  She is an RN with a Master’s Degree in Psychology/Counseling, who offers support groups for women with postpartum depression. She can be reached at 317-962-8191 or by email at bmeyer2@iuhealth.org.

If you are having intense feelings as describe above or any thoughts of harming yourself or anyone else call your provider immediately or go to the emergency room.  I want you to know you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we are here for you and ready to help.

Postpartum Depression Resources:

www.postpartum.net
www.postpartumstress.com
www.ppdsupportpage.com
www.postpartumdads.org

Post by Carrie F. Bonsack, CNM, MS

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