What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is when a woman develops moderate to severe depression after she has given birth. Of course, it is natural to feel sad or down sometimes, and most women will attest to the fact that the hormonal fluctuations that are a natural part of postpartum recovery can lead to brief periods of sadness and crying, frustration, anger or even regret. In fact, about 70% of women experience what some doctors call the 'baby blues' within a few weeks of giving birth. But, if the low mood sticks around day after day for at least two consecutive weeks, and the symptoms start to interrupt daily activities, it could be a sign of postpartum depression. Women with postpartum depression (rather than merely baby blues) tend to be chronically exhausted, show irrational fear of harming the baby or the self, being disinterested in the baby, and have extended and intense periods of crying. Postpartum depression is not a sign of failure as a mother, weakness, or a personality problem; it is actually quite common for women to develop postpartum depression (about 10-20% of new mothers) and in the vast majority of cases it is successfully treated and tends not to turn into major depressive disorder.

What are the symptoms of postpartum depression?

Many of the symptoms are similar to those found in major depressive disorder. In addition to feeling 'down' or having a depressed mood, you may have one or more of the following on a daily or near-daily basis: negative thoughts toward the baby, thoughts of death or suicide, fear of harming the baby, fear of harming the self, irritability, agitation, decreased appetite, difficulty concentrating, confusion, feelings of guilt, regret or worthlessness, feelings of socially isolation or withdrawal, and trouble sleeping. Some women may only show one or two of these symptoms, and others may show several over the course of a few days. Sometimes it can be very difficult for a new mother to recognize that she might have postpartum depression, so it is always best to consult a medical professional; in fact, your child's pediatrician is usually trained and quite good at picking up the signs of postpartum depression.

What is the treatment for postpartum depression?

Many women are successfully treated with psychological therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can provide a mother with strategies and guidance to help them through this difficult time. Sometimes your doctor may choose to give medication in addition to therapy, such as nortriptyline, paroxetine, and sertraline, which are all thought to be safe for breastfeeding mothers. Treatment usually lasts from 3 to 6 months, depending on the severity of symptoms, and the mother's progress. Remember that most mothers, despite having postpartum depression, are fantastic and loving mothers! Treatment can help them feel that way within themselves and also help their relationships with others, such as their spouse, friends and family members.

If you think that you might have postpartum depression, or if you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, seek immediate medical help (call 9-1-1).

Natural postpartum depression treatments?

There are several homeopathic treatments for postpartum depression. Many good books suggest exercise, getting outdoors, and spending time with friends who are going through similar things as you; do a Google search for new mom groups in your area! You may also want to try some homeopathic supplements, such as 5-HTP Mood Support, Omega-3 Oils, Amino Acids, or supplements that blend several of these ingredients. Of course, always ask your doct before beginning to take any nutritional supplements, and if you are breast feeding be sure to also ask your pediatrician.   

What causes postpartum depression?

 There is no single known cause of postpartum depression, and the mother is never to blame as it is not a preventable condition. There are, however, certain risk factors that increase the likelihood that a new mother might develop postpartum depression. These include:

1. A history of, or current, alcohol or drug use, or smoking.

2. Being under the age of 20 years when the baby is born.

3. A history of, or current, mood or anxiety disorder, including depression with a previous pregnancy, or a prior anxiety disorder.

4. Not wanting the pregnancy, or did not plan the pregnancy.

5. Having a bad relationship with the father of the baby, or a husband, boyfriend or significant other.

6. Being unmarried or outside of a strong trusting relationship.

7. Having a close family member with a history of, or current, depression or anxiety.

8. Having financial problems such as low or unreliable income, poor housing conditions, and/or lack of community support resources.