Postpartum depression has gotten a lot of headlines lately with celebrities, such as Brooke Shields, speaking out about their experiences. Many women have also made headlines for unspeakable crimes against their own children. Postpartum depression, or PPD, is a medical condition that causes extreme depression and anxiety in a woman at a time that should be the happiest of her life. Part of the problem with treating postpartum depression is that many women are ashamed to admit the way that they are feeling. More education is needed so that women can realize that postpartum depression is a medical condition, not a personal problem.
Symptoms of PPD are varied. Patients may exhibit some or all of the symptoms. The important thing to remember is that the symptoms need to be present for a time of about two weeks, for the majority of the time during the day, not just a few isolated incidents, in order to be classified as PPD. Women experiencing PPD will complain of an overall feeling of depression. Crying, feelings of hopelessness, and feelings of inadequacy will accompany PPD. Often women will experience a change in appetite. Eating becomes difficult for women with PPD. While it is more common for appetite to decrease, some women experience an unexplainable increase in appetite. Women experiencing PPD will not find pleasure in activities they usually enjoy. Extreme anxiety that is incontrollable is often present. Fatigue is another symptom. Women suffering from PPD will not want to care for their babies. They feel detached and unemotional when they think about their baby. One of the scariest symptoms of PPD is thoughts of suicide, or thoughts of harming the baby. If you feel this way it is important to tell someone you trust right away and get immediate medical attention!
What causes PPD? PPD is triggered by the change in hormones that occur after pregnancy and birth. It is normal for women to experience a period of “baby blues” after birth, but if it is true PPD the feelings do not go away. PPD can be accentuated by a lack of support from family or spouse.
The hardest aspect of treating postpartum depression is getting the mom to request treatment. Because most of the symptoms of PPD occur normally after giving birth on a smaller scale, it is difficult for the woman to know when normal baby blues become problematic. Another problem is that one of the symptoms is a sense of failure, so admitting that she needs help is often emotionally difficult for the mom. Spouses and family need to watch carefully in the months after birth for these symptoms, and get help if needed. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from PPD, you need to seek treatment.
Treatments for PPD include two things. Your doctor will probably set you up with professional counseling. The counselor will teach you techniques to deal with the anxiety you are experiencing. Another treatment involves prescribing antidepressants. These medications alleviate the outward symptoms while the counseling can heal what is going on inside.
The most important thing for the woman suffering from PPD to remember is that it can get better. If she seeks proper medical treatment she can begin to finally enjoy being a mom!