What you need to know about postpartum depression
This blog was written by Tyler Van Milligen, DO:
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and also the time of year we get to celebrate mothers, some of the most powerful women in our lives. A multitude of expectations is placed on women – mothers and new mothers included. And the postpartum period for many women can be one of the more challenging times for maintaining any sort of mental health.
The stigma surrounding mental health unfortunately creates an unsafe silence that holds many new moms hostage. I extend an invitation to make mental health during pregnancy and in the postpartum period OK to talk about. The 3-day-old, inside out milk-stained T-shirt version of motherhood shouldn’t only be shared, but it should be normalized.
The "baby blues"
Most women will experience what’s known as the “baby blues,” a period of time following delivery when moms are perhaps more tearful, disconnected, apathetic and irritable. When our bodies finish expelling another human that was developing within their bodies for almost a year, our systems need to reboot. This includes our hormones and their homeostatic surge back to baseline.
RELATED: Mary Nelle's story of postpartum depression
After birth, our estrogen and progesterone levels drop significantly which can lead to neuroendocrinological effects like the baby blues. Combine this with the compounding pressure of navigating a new life role, returning to a career, finding child care and a culture that is overly preoccupied with a sexualized version of the female body and what they should do with it, it becomes clear just how normal “not normal” can be.
When to seek help:
So when does someone ask for help? Here are some quick questions that can help guide new moms:
Have you been experiencing at least five of the following for at least two weeks:
- Reduced interest in things you used to like doing?
- Are you pulling away or isolating more?
- Depressed mood most of the day for most days?
- Reduced appetite?
- Moving or talking slowly?
- Feeling constantly tired or having very little or no energy?
- Trouble concentrating on even basic tasks?
- Guilty or worthless feelings?
- Thoughts of death?
When symptoms persist beyond a couple of weeks, are more intense over time, include suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming the baby, it is time to talk about it and seek resources.
There are many misconceptions regarding postpartum depression (PPD) and its treatment including the impact of psychiatric medications on the developing fetus and excretion in breastmilk. Many safe options exist and all options can be discussed in detail with a provider.
RELATED: Learn about common mental illnesses
PPD occurs in 1 out of 7 women. Think about that the next time you’re in grocery line or sitting in a coffee shop looking at the women around you. Let’s focus on making normal “normal” and that includes PPD.
Get more insight on the maternal mental health and postpartum depression in this episode of "Your Best Life" from MercyOne:
MercyOne is dedicated to providing specialized, family-centered treatment for adolescents, adults and seniors. Through inpatient and outpatient programs, our behavioral health experts empower you to take control and get back to living your best life. Find a behavioral health expert near you.