Blog // 12.19.2011

Suffering in Silence: The Truth about "Baby Blues" and Postpartum Depression

Article by Akua A-T

It is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. Whether planned or not, 39 weeks have passed and the time has come. You have read the books, consulted with your doctor and have had countless conversations with women- those you know and those you don’t- about childbirth.  You have heard stories of sleepless nights, diaper changes and your bundle of joy bringing you complete and utter happiness.

The baby is here and … why do you feel down? Why don’t you feel how everyone else feels? Why are there more tears than smiles and why cant you get it right? These thoughts and experiences are more common than we think. It is estimated that approximately 5-20% of women, with rates varying for specific racial groups, experience postpartum depression (PPD). While the birth of a baby can trigger feelings of excitement and joy, it can also trigger feelings of fear and anxiety. It can result in depression.

PPD is not a character flaw, a sign of weakness, nor a spiritual condition.  In fact, such misconceptions lead women to refrain from seeking help and many women suffer in silence thinking they are alone.

Prompt recognition and treatment of this health issue can help in managing symptoms and allow you to enjoy your baby and life as mother. Baby blues is a term for a somewhat milder form of the condition. It presents symptoms lasting a few days to a few weeks. Common symptoms associated with baby blues include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, crying, decreased concentration, and insomnia.

PPD may appear as the baby blues initially but then become more intense and last much longer. The symptoms can eventually interfere with your ability to care for yourself or for your baby. Common symptoms can include loss of appetite, insomnia, intense irritability and anger, overwhelming fatigue, reduced libido, lack of joy in life, feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy, severe mood swings, difficulty bonding with the baby, withdrawal from friends and family, thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby. Untreated, symptoms may last for a year or longer.

There is no single cause for PPD. It associated with physical changes, emotional changes, and various lifestyle changes impacting women upon childbirth. Physical changes happen naturally after the birth of the child and include changes in hormonal levels, in blood volume and pressure, and in metabolism. All of these can contribute to the feelings of fatigue, mood swings, exhaustion and depressions. With respect to emotional changes, with a new baby comes sleep deprivation and a feeling of being overwhelmed. When this happens, even the smallest issue can feel like a huge problem. Sometimes there is also another demanding baby involved or older sibling vying for your attention. Women sometimes have difficulty breastfeeding, feel exhausted, have financial problem, and feel a lack of support. All of these lifestyle changes can also play a role in PPD.

Because there is no one cause of PPD, treatment needs to address all aspects. Treatment should be sought when you have symptoms that do not fade after two weeks, appear to be getting worse, make it hard for you to complete daily tasks ( including taking care of yourself and your baby), or if they include thoughts of harming yourself and/or the baby.

For the baby blues, treatment should include:

–          getting as much rest as you can

–          accept help from friends and family

–          join community groups for mothers

–          avoid alcohol

For post partum depression treatment options include:

–          counseling

–          antidepressants

–          hormone therapy

–          vitamins

Overall lifestyle changes that can be employed by women include healthy lifestyle choices, do not put too much pressure on yourself-do what you can, make time for yourself, avoid isolation. Seek information from community groups for new mothers, speak with your doctor, and public health nurse. Utilize the knowledge of your community pharmacists as some of them have specialties in women’s health.

As women it is important to remember that the best way to care for your baby is to care for yourself.  Live healthy and happy.

Akua Amoako-Tuffour  has a BSc. in pharmacy and is a registered pharmacist. Feel free to contact her at:  akua83@gmail.com

One Response to “Suffering in Silence: The Truth about "Baby Blues" and Postpartum Depression”

  1. For the previous several weeks, I have been leading a support group for women who suffer from major depression, and I will be basing tonight’s discussion on this excellent write-up. This is the first time I’ve read through your web site, but I can tell you for certain that I will be checking out and reading again!

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