Post-Partum Depression and OCD; The Missed Diagnosis

Several years ago former model and actress Brooke Shields released her autobiography. The book, a bestseller receiving critical acclaim contained stunning admissions about her struggle with post-partum depression. The admissions brought a steady flow of publicity; finally allowing the world to see that post partum depression is a problem. The disease is similar to rape in that women tend to let it go underreported and often the various symptoms go undiagnosed. There is one type of post partum depression that is severely overlooked. It is the depression combined with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Like OCD, soon after giving birth the new mother is overwhelmed by images or certain reoccurring thoughts. If you have seen any specials on OCD, you might remember the constant washing of hands to get rid of germs, pulling hair out, and other behavior. When it comes to post partum obsessive-compulsive disorder the thoughts don’t revolve around the washing of hands, rather the thoughts deal with the new baby. The scariest part is that the thoughts often including hurting their own baby. Other times, it can be the constant changing of the diaper, even though it is clean. In their minds, they pictured their child becoming deathly ill from even the slightest defecation in the diaper. This admission in Brooke Shield’s book tended to garner the most attention.

Doctors and psychiatrists have yet to find the root cause of the disease. However, most tend to believe that the hormonal imbalance occurring after giving birth does play a role.

As in regular depression, there are treatments to ease the anxiety and fear that comes with motherhood. The most common is seeing a therapist along with taking medication. The most commonly prescribed medications for Post-Partum Depression are Zoloft and Paxil. Paxil is generally not given to pregnant women, where in some cases Zoloft has been prescribed. Taking an anti-depressant while pregnant can have negative effects for the mother, with growing concern that the medication may harm the baby in the womb, and even during breastfeeding. Numerous studies have showed the Zoloft is by far the safest anti-depressant to take during and after giving birth. However, it is always important to talk to your doctor and pharmacist to truly determine which medication (if medication at all) is right for you.

Some important questions to ask yourself when it comes to post-partum depression are these:

-When you first found out you were pregnant, did you have any prior history of depression or high anxiety?
-Have you previously been prescribed and anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication within the last year?
-Does Post Partum Depression run in your family? Ask your mom, sisters or any other blood relative in your family who have been pregnant. Though studies have not conclusively proven PPD is genetic, some circles believe it plays a role in the severity of the depression
-Has your spouse or partner been mentioning significant mood changes or behavioral changes lately? Take note, this could be due to the hormonal imbalance. A very low dosage of anti-depressant medication during pregnancy can significantly reduce the symptoms.

Most importantly talk to your doctor about what you are feeling. Seek out therapy from a professional to discuss any fears or anxieties you may have with becoming a mother. Keep an open line of communication with your pharmacist as well. They are able to provide very pertinent and helpful information.

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