Tag Archives: PPD

Postpartum Depression

Risk Factors, Symptoms, and What To Do

Take a Screening Test for PPD

The Baby Blues has become as much an accepted part of being a new mother as engorged breasts and sleep deprivation. But what if the Blues don’t go away? For 10-20% of new mothers, Postpartum Depression (PPD) is an unwanted and difficult part of the first year of motherhood. The causes of PPD are many, and can include hormonal and lifestyle changes, a lack of social support, sleep deprivation, a high-risk pregnancy, a traumatic birth or difficult recovery, or breastfeeding problems. You are also at a higher risk of PPD if you have suffered previously from depression, or have recent losses or trauma in your life. Symptoms of PPD and related disorders can include:

  • Feeling sad, depressed, numb, or crying a lot
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Unusually strong feelings of anger or resentment
  • Lack of energy
  • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness, tingling, dizziness or nausea, hyperventilation or other unexplained physical symptoms
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive tiredness
  • Loss of appetite or conversely, overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions, or confusion
  • Excessive worry about the baby or lack of interest in the baby
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors
  • Fear of hurting the baby or yourself

Many mothers experience only a few of these symptoms, but if you feel like something is wrong and you’re not quite yourself, that is an important signal. If these symptoms persist for two weeks or more, the mother should promptly get support by talking to her doctor or a mental health professional. PPD is a highly treatable condition, with therapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

If you need medication and you are told that you must give up breastfeeding, make sure you get the advice of a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about medications for breastfeeding mothers. There are a few antidepressants which are routinely prescribed for breastfeeding mothers with untraceable amounts detectable in the baby’s bloodstream. Moreover, breastfeeding can be beneficial both for the depressed mother, the long-term health of her baby, and bonding, which is even more challenging when a mother is depressed.

Depression not only affects you: it affects your relationships with your partner and your baby. Untreated, depression can lead to bonding difficulties and delayed development or failure to thrive. Getting the help you need to recover quickly is the best thing you can do for your baby and yourself.

Most importantly, tell your support people (your family, friends, partner) how you are feeling. The burden of trying to seem happy and “keeping it all together” can make the depression worse. You need to lean on the people who care about you, get as much help as you need until you’re back to feeling like yourself, and don’t beat yourself up for having PPD. It is NOT YOUR FAULT.

Does Your Personality Style Put You at Risk for Postpartum Depression?

mother baby

By Meri Levy, MA, MFT

What are the risk factors for Postpartum Depression and anxiety? Can your personality contribute to your risk? Check out this article of mine, published on www.GoodTherapy.org.

Postpartum Depression and Perfectionism

canstockphoto10868712I recently had an article published on GoodTherapy.org about how your personality style can put you at risk for Postpartum Depression. Check it out on GoodTherapy.org.

For New Moms: When You’re “Just Not Yourself”

By Meri Levy, MFT

canstockphoto14016122Being a new mother should be a joyous time in your life. But what if you’re not feeling like yourself after having a baby? About 10-15% or of new moms experience postpartum depression, which can begin any time during the first year after childbirth. Depression is a treatable illness that causes feelings of sadness, indifference, and/or anxiety.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is different from the “baby blues.” A majority of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” a period of sadness that isn’t debilitating and passes quickly. Symptoms of the “baby blues” include tearfulness, irritability, restlessness, and anxiety. But when symptoms of sadness, irritability or anxiety continue for more than two weeks or make it difficult to care for your baby, there is more going on and it’s time to reach out for help.

Symptoms of PPD include:

  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Trouble sleeping/sleeping too much
  • Loss of appetite/increased appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating/confusion
  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Lack of interest in the baby
  • Fear of harming the baby or oneself

Symptoms can vary in severity, but persistent depression often causes new moms feel isolated, guilty, or ashamed.

You should tell your doctor if you have several of these symptoms for more than two weeks; if you have thoughts of suicide or thoughts of harming your child; depressed feelings are getting worse; or you are having trouble caring for your baby or yourself.

Depression is an illness. It is not a sign of weakness or of being a bad mother. It can be treated successfully, and getting help is the best thing you can do for your baby.

Risk Factors for PPD

Any new mom can develop PPD. Its causes may include hormonal and other physical changes, sleep disturbance, emotional adjustments and chronic stress. However, women are at increased risk of depression if they have a personal or family history of depression, if they are have experienced particularly stressful life events such as significant losses, a high-risk pregnancy or traumatic birth, or if they don’t have adequate support from family and friends.

Other Postpartum Conditions:

Postpartum Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Many new moms experience anxiety rather than sadness after giving birth. Anxiety, panic attacks, irrational fears or intrusive thoughts, or images can be associated with Postpartum Anxiety or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Symptoms of a panic attack can include a racing heartbeat, unusual physical symptoms, a sense of impending doom, the feeling that you are dying, dizziness or nausea.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder after Childbirth
New mothers can also develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic childbirth experience. PTSD involves reexperiencing the trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, having difficulty sleeping, and feeling detached or estranged from friends and loved ones.

Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis is extremely rare but also very serious. It affects only two out of every 1,000 new moms. The symptoms are severe and may include insomnia, agitation, hallucinations, and extreme paranoia or suspiciousness. Postpartum psychosis is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate attention.

Treatment for Postpartum Disorders is Effective

If you believe you are suffering from a postpartum disorder, the first step is to talk to your doctor or mental health provider.

You should be evaluated by your doctor to rule out a medical cause that can contribute to depression.

Psychotherapy, medication or a combination of the two may be needed to get you back to feeling like yourself. But you must continue treatment even after you begin to feel better, because discontinuing treatment too soon can cause symptoms to recur.

The support of family and friends is also instrumental to your recovery. In addition, joining a support group for postpartum disorders can help overcome feelings of isolation, increase coping skills and provide social support.

Getting help is the most important step you can take for yourself and your baby. Untreated maternal depression is associated with developmental delays in babies, as well as potentially serious emotional consequences for your growing child.

How Partners Can Help

New moms suffering from Pospartum Depression and Anxiety need the support of their partner, as well as friends and family. Help with baby care and household responsibilities, provide an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on, and be patient and understanding with her struggles. And make sure she gets help.

Partners also need to take care of themselves. Having a new baby is hard for partners too. And if the mother is depressed, you are dealing with two major stressors. Partners can also suffer from Postpartum Depression, a often undiagnosed problem.

How to help a partner suffering from a postpartum disorder:

  • Encourage her to talk about how she is feeling. Listen without judging her. Instead of trying to fix the problems, just be there for her to lean on.
  • Offer help around the house. Chip in with the housework and childcare responsibilities. Don’t wait for her to ask!
  • Make sure she takes time for herself. Rest and relaxation are important. Encourage her to take breaks, hire a babysitter, or schedule some date nights.
  • Be patient if she’s not ready for sex. Depression affects sex drive, so it may be a while before she’s in the mood. Offer her physical affection, but don’t push if she’s not ready for sex. She will recover in time!
  • Go for walks with her. Getting exercise and sunshine can make a big dent in depression, but it’s hard to get motivated when you’re depressed. Help her by making walks a daily ritual for the two of you.

If you’re not sure if you have PPD, complete the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It is a fairly accurate way of determine if your symptoms are normal or may require treatment.

I offer a support group In my Lafayette Office for mothers suffering from perinatal anxiety and depression. You can download a flier for the group here.

Good Grief! Adjusting to Parenthood

Letting Go of What We Give Up When We Become Parents, by Meri Levy, MFT

In becoming parents, along with the love and joy that a baby brings, we often face issues that arise relating to our own childhood experiences. For many people, the unmet needs and wants from our childhood simmer below the surface, and the arrival of a baby and the transition to becoming a parent can bring them to the forefront.

It is important to allow ourselves to grieve the losses that are a part of becoming a parent — the loss of nurturing we feel as the focus shifts to nurturing our child, the loss of independence, and our diminished ability to focus on our own needs — and work on letting go of unmet expectations regarding our own childhood.

The phases of grieving have long been studied and are well understood, although their duration, order and intensity can vary greatly, and each individual’s experience is unique.

The first phase is denial: in this case we deny feelings of loss because they seem inappropriate or are too uncomfortable to deal with.

The second phase is anger, and this can take many forms: anger at our partner for their lack of support, anger at our parents for perceived flaws, anger at friends for their lack of understanding of the changes we are experiencing. And even sometimes anger at our child, for the endless demands or because our baby differs from our expectations.

The third phase of grief is bargaining: attempting to avoid or undo our uncomfortable feelings. “If only I had a more supportive husband…, or an easier baby,” etc. These are ways we avoid dealing with the fact that parenting is incredibly hard work, and that our unmet needs from childhood have not and most likely will not be met.

The fourth phase of grief is depression. This can include intense sadness, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in life, and a feeling of numbness. Depression is a normal phase of grieving, but when it becomes severe (i.e. thoughts of harming oneself or others) or persistent (more than two weeks), it is crucial to get help.

The fifth and final phase of grief is acceptance. We feel comfortable in our new role as parents. We accept, and can even joke about, how our life has changed and how our child has become the center of our world. And importantly, we do what we can to nurture ourselves, without blaming others, without feeling guilty, knowing that we deserve taking care of, even if the only one who can do it is ourself.