According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, postpartum depression affects about 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers (www.womenshealth.gov). Postpartum depression statistics indicate that this ailment is fairly common among the population, and yet for many women who have never experienced it, the statistics don’t relieve postpartum depression. However, if you’re experiencing postpartum depression and/or anxiety, knowing you’re not “the only one who’s going through this” can help you get started on the road to recovery. It’s important to know that you have more than just “the blues,” and that you may need help in order to feel better.
“Why Can’t I Be Happy?”
Many women feel guilt over postpartum depression. Statistics aside, they just can’t imagine why they shouldn’t be joyful following the birth of the baby. However, many factors can trigger postpartum depression and its milder cousin, “the baby blues.” Hormonal changes, fatigue, worries over being a good mother, money worries, and other factors can increase chances of postpartum depression. Also, if you have a history of depression in your family, you are statistically at greater risk of postpartum depression. If you have persistent feelings of sadness, difficulty sleeping (even when the baby isn’t keeping you awake), restlessness, loss of appetite, moodiness or mood swings, disinterest in the baby, or loss of interest in things or activities that you formerly found enjoyable, you should talk to your doctor. If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or the baby, you should contact someone immediately.
Prevention and Help for Postpartum Depression
Especially if you have a family history of depression, you should advise your doctor as early as possible in your pregnancy. With close monitoring, mild depression can often be treated with support groups, counseling, or other therapies. This can help head off more serious symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication for your depression, or you may begin counseling (usually, “talk therapy”). Both of these methods, sometimes in combination, have been proven statistically effective with postpartum depression and its relief. If you are breastfeeding, the medicines for depression will enter the breast milk, but many medications for depression can be taken with very little fear of side effects for the baby. You should thoroughly discuss the benefits and risks of any drugs with your doctor.
There Is Hope
Statistics indicate that postpartum depression usually goes away within a few months with appropriate treatment. Remember, though, that it is important to continue your treatment even after you feel better, according to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com). Halting treatment too early can lead to a relapse.