“You don’t have to feel this way. We can make a plan.”
Though spoken to me a number of years ago, I still remember the hope and healing these words provided as I experienced the difficult challenge of postpartum depression. The wise obstetrician who spoke these words referred me to a specialist in perinatal mental health, and through therapy and group support, I recovered from postpartum depression and embarked on a road of personal growth in the process.
The challenge of postpartum depression (PPD) often takes women and their families by surprise, even though this is naturally a time of emotional upheaval. The demands of infant care alone can be overwhelming. The significant hormonal changes can leave women feeling emotionally vulnerable. Adding depression to the mix leaves moms and families feeling unable to cope. (Many professionals use the term peripartum, which includes mental and emotional health changes that are associated with the prepartum period before the baby is born, and the postpartum period after the baby is born.)
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression
Symptoms of depression, which can be mild to severe in the postpartum period, include:
- low mood and lack of enjoyment in life
- thought ruminations (obsessions, worry)
- low self-esteem
- disturbed sleeping patterns (aside from those caused by the baby’s schedule)
- disturbed eating patterns
- low energy levels
- poor concentration
Women often feel excessive guilt associated with the belief that they are not “good” moms. In addition, many women experience obsessive thoughts or impulses to harm the baby, and they are afraid to vocalize these thoughts to anyone. This leads to more worry and guilt as women believe in the societal expectations to experience exuberant joy over the birth of their babies.
Sometimes women may notice some of the above symptoms in a milder form while not experiencing a full-blown depression. Professionals also recognize persistent depressive disorder (formerly dysthymia) that may occur with peripartum onset. These milder symptoms may continue for years without being adequately addressed.
Hope and Help
As stated above, women and families facing postpartum depression do not have to suffer. Successful treatments include various forms of psychotherapy (individual and group), psychoeducation, involvement of relatives, peer support, and medication. Support from others is crucial, whether that be a spouse/partner, another family member or friend, or a therapist.
- An excellent book for help dealing with postpartum depression is This Isn’t What I Expected by Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW.
- Her companion book for husbands/partners, The postpartum husband: Practical solutions for living with postpartum depression is also excellent.
- PSI – Postpartum Support International
- Postpartum Stress Center
- Mayo Clinic page on postpartum depression
For more information about postpartum depression contact Lisa Kuiper M.A. at Hoover & Associates, (708) 429-6999, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Desk reference to the diagnostic criteria from the DSM-5. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Hubner-Liebermann, B., Hausner, H., & Wittmann, M. (2012). Recognizing and treating peripartum depression. Deutsches Arzteblatt International, 109(24): 419-424.
Misri, S., Kostaras, X., Fox, D., & Kostaras, D. (2000). The impact of partner support in the treatment of postpartum depression. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 45(6): 554 558.