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Postpartum Depression & Treatment

Now that baby’s born, it’s time to focus on postpartum care – for you and your newborn! That means caring for yourself inside and out, including everything from getting back into shape, to confronting post-partum depression.

As a new mom, breastfeeding can be a unique experience that allows you to bond with your baby. However, it’s natural to have concerns about breastfeeding your baby, even if you’ve breastfed before. Find out about common breastfeeding complications, such as engorgement, as well as comfortable breastfeeding positions; here you’ll also find advice on breastfeeding twins, breastfeeding in public and how to pump and store your breast milk.

Postpartum depression is a common condition that affects the physical and mental well-being of new moms. Learn about common signs of postpartum depression as well as different degrees of postpartum depression, including postpartum psychosis. Here you’ll also find treatment options that can help you overcome postpartum depression.

After the birth of your baby, you’ll likely notice that your body isn’t the same as it was before pregnancy. Discover tips on healthy eating and fitness that can help you improve the look of your body after pregnancy, as well as improve your overall postpartum health. Here you’ll also find advice on dressing the postpartum body, as well as how to minimize the appearance of stretch marks and varicose veins in order to create a more beautiful you.
Postpartum Depression
Although it is not talked about as much as it should be, postpartum depression is beginning to become a more common phrase these days. With the increasing attention the issue is gaining these days, more women are able to find help sooner for their depression.
Affecting one in 10 women, postpartum depression can be treated with medications and counseling. Left untreated, it can continue to get worse and may last for up to a year. While a type of depression, postpartum depression is not the same as the depression that can affect both men and women.
Postpartum Depression Facts
Between 15 and 20% of women who have given birth recently will be affected by postpartum depression. While it is a serious condition, women who receive proper medical attention quickly can help relieve the symptoms.
Unlike the baby blues, which show-up within the first few days after birth, postpartum depression can begin anywhere during the first year after giving birth. Women who have recently miscarried or weaned their child may also be affected by postpartum depression.
Signs of Depression
Typical postpartum depression symptoms are often similar to those of the baby blues. However, women with postpartum depression tend to feel the symptoms more intensely. When your depression begins to interfere with your daily activities, you should recognize it as one sure sign that your depression is more than the baby blues. Other postpartum depression signs include:
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling sad and crying more than usual
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Lack of interest or over interest in baby
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, and/or hyperventilating

Causes of Postpartum Depression
Most experts feel that the sudden drop in estrogen and progesterone is the reason behind postpartum depression. In women who are not pregnant, the rise and sudden fall of the hormones every month is the cause of many women feeling grouchy and overly sensitive just before their periods.
During pregnancy, these hormones steadily increase for nine months before suddenly plummeting just after childbirth. They continue to decline until they return to normal, pre-pregnancy levels. As a result, many women feel emotionally frail after giving birth. For some, these drastically changing hormonal levels will result in postpartum depression.
Some have also linked postpartum depression to low thyroid levels. A simple blood test can determine if this is the cause of your depression. Thyroid medication can be used to easily treat your depression.
Tied to the above postpartum depression theory, Bronfenbrenner’s ecology theory states that women with postpartum depression need to be evaluated within the context of the systems in which they operate. People are affected and shaped by everything around them. Therefore, using Bronfenbrenner’s ecology theory, women with postpartum depression should be examined in connection with their family, workplace, community, society and culture in which they live.
It is also believed that the changes a new baby makes in your life can also contribute to the depression. Lack of sleep, emotional stress, feeling overwhelmed, suffering from a loss of identity, and feeling as though you have lost control and freedom can all negatively impact on your mood. Women who do not have a strong social and emotional support group are also more vulnerable to postpartum depression.
Who’s at Risk
Postpartum depression can strike any woman regardless of whether this is her first child or her fourth child. Women who have a family history or past personal history of depression are 30% more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. Women who have had postpartum depression with a previous pregnancy are 50 to 80% more likely to suffer from it in future pregnancies. Women who experience depression during pregnancy are also more at risk of developing postpartum depression.
Coping With Postpartum Depression
It is important that women suffering from postpartum depression get help as soon as they can. Without proper treatment, your depression may get worse and can continue for up to a year. Treating postpartum depression is usually not hard and most women respond well to the various forms of therapy.
Antidepressant medication is one common treatment. However, women that are breastfeeding should discuss the issue with their doctor first, as some antidepressants can end up in your breast milk. Psychological counseling is also often recommended as treatment, either on its own or in combination with medications.
Many women have also found support groups to be very helpful. These regular meetings allow you to get out of your house and talk with other women who are going through the same situation as you. Having a strong home support base, talking with your partner about how you feel and getting out of the house regularly to socialize with friends have also been found to significantly help women with postpartum depression.
Non-traditional therapies, like yoga and acupressure, may help relieve some of your depression. Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet can also help to elevate your mood and general sense of well-being.
Treating Postpartum Depression
The duration of a postpartum depression will depend upon how quickly the condition was recognized and the treatment given, but a full recovery can be expected. For some women, the depression is short lived and will clear up on its own. But if symptoms continue after two or three weeks, it is time to seek some type of professional help.
Most importantly, if a woman starts having symptoms of psychosis, such as if she is experiencing hallucinations, self-destructive thoughts, or feelings of being outside herself, she needs to seek help immediately. Some of the treatment options you’re your health care provider might recommend include:
  • Joining a support group is one option, especially if the depression is mild to moderate. Many new mothers find it reassuring to know that other women are experiencing the same things. If you can't find one, ask your health care provider or the hospital where you delivered.
  • Antidepressants and talk therapy. Some recent research shows that a combination of both talk therapy and antidepressants may be very effective in treating postpartum depression sufferers. Some women may be hesitant to use antidepressants because of a fear that the drug may end up in their milk supply and hurt the baby. This fear is not completely unfounded because traces of some antidepressants do find their way into breast milk. However, it varies from drug to drug. Be sure to talk about the benefits and risks of taking medications while breasfeeding your child, with your health care provider.
  • Accept or ask for help from others.
  • Rest or nap when the baby sleeps. Many mothers are tempted to take the few minutes of nap time and get a load of laundry done or to do the dishes. These chores can wait, or they can be done by your partner or friend. Minimize your extraneous chores for at least the first few days, and have dad help whenever possible. He is just as capable of changing a diaper, or burping, or bathing the baby. The only thing he cannot do is breastfeed.
  • Take a break and go out for dinner or a movie with your spouse...or enjoy a carry-out meal at home. Meet a friend for lunch.
  • Lower your expectations of yourself.
  • Talk about your feelings with your spouse, family or friends.
  • Join a new mothers’ group.
  • Exercise (with doctor’s permission).
  • Take time for yourself when baby is asleep—read, take a bath, watch a movie, or pamper yourself in some other way.
  • Eat healthy. You need to eat well, avoid caffeine, junk food, and greasy foods. Take a shower at least once a day, this will make you feel better, and give you a few minutes alone. Have a drink of water every time you nurse. Depending on whether you had an episiotomy or cesarean surgery, your physical recovery will have specific instructions.

The Baby Blues
Between 50% and 80% of all new mothers experience what is known as the "baby blues." Because the baby blues are so common, it is not classified as a postpartum mood disorder. But the feelings a woman may experience during the baby blues may still cause her worry.
What Are The Baby Blues?
After hearing for nine months how wonderful and magical it is to give birth, it is not surprising that you may find yourself feeling a bit sad and let down after the birth. The baby blues generally show up three to four days after you give birth. Within two weeks, the feelings of sadness should disappear on their own. Symptoms may appear quite suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, but they can also disappear just as quickly.
Signs of the Baby Blues
Symptoms of the baby blues are generally mild and can include:
  • Weepiness
  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Loneliness
  • Restlessness
  • Impatience
Why The Baby Blues Happen
This mild form of postpartum depression is usually attributed to the sudden, quick change in your hormones. The emotional and physical stress of giving birth along with any general physical discomfort you may be experiencing can also contribute to you feeling a bit down for the first few weeks after birth.

Many new mothers tend to have an increased sense of anxiety because of the new responsibility a baby brings with him. Not surprisingly, this anxiety can have a negative impact on your mood. The fatigue and lack of sleep that affects all new mothers only serves to compound the problem.
You may also be disappointed if you’re having troubles nursing or your partner isn’t helping out as much as you would like.
Chasing Those Blues Away
The baby blues often disappear one their own. However, here are some things you can do to help ease the symptoms and help yourself feel better, sooner.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
  • Join a support group for new mothers
  • Make time each day to do something you enjoy
  • Give yourself a change of scenery by meeting with a friend for a cup of coffee or enjoy an evening out on the town with your partner
  • Talk with your partner about dividing up the parenting responsibilities so you don’t feel like you are doing everything by yourself.
Do I Need Help?
The baby blues are not a serious disorder and generally go away on their within two weeks. However, if your symptom last for more than two weeks or your depression interferes with your daily activities, make an appointment with your health care provider. You could be suffering from postpartum depression.
If you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek medical attention immediately. You may want to read more on postpartum depression if you are feeling panicked and overly anxious or are extremely worried about your baby and are obsessed with doing some activities repetitively.

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