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Understanding and Dealing with Postpartum Depression

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Mar 17, 2015

The birth of a baby is a very exciting time. You may be overcome with joy. You may be nervous about the road ahead. You may also feel something you didn’t expect -- Depression.

Postpartum depression is a type of depression that some women get after giving birth. This isn’t just the baby blues, or anxiety about the future which usually subsides within a couple of weeks after giving birth. Postpartum depression is more serious and should not be brushed off.


What is the difference between baby blues and depression?

Symptoms of baby blues usually go away within a couple of days or weeks. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • mood swings
  • anxiety
  • sadness
  • irritability
  • trouble sleeping
Symptoms of depression are much more serious, and last much longer. Depression can even interfere with your ability to take care of your baby, yourself, or daily tasks. Some symptoms of postpartum depression can include:
  • severe mood swings
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia
  • overwhelming fatigue
  • feeling like a failure as a mother
  • feelings of shame or guilt
  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • thought of harming yourself or your baby

If you have thoughts of suicide or harming your baby, see someone right away! Call your doctor or nurse and tell them it is urgent. Go to the emergency room at your local hospital.

When to See a Doctor

If you have feelings of anxiety or depression after delivery, you may be reluctant to admit it. It’s important to call your doctor if you have symptoms for a couple of weeks, and they aren’t fading or they are getting worse. If you are unable to care for your baby or yourself, you need to seek help. Don’t wait for thing to get better on their own. You are not alone. In fact, nearly three million women a year are diagnosed with postpartum depression! It’s very common, and can be effectively treated.

How Is Postpartum Depression Treated?

With proper treatment, postpartum depression usually goes away within a couple of months. In some cases, it can last longer. It’s important to continue your treatment and stay in contact with your doctor to avoid a relapse. There are a couple of treatment options for postpartum depression. One option is taking medication to relieve the symptoms. Some medications are not recommended for nursing mothers, so if you are breastfeeding be sure to mention that to your doctor. Another option is to see a therapist. Having someone to talk to may help tremendously. Through counseling, you may find better ways of coping with emotions and set goals for the future.

Postpartum depression is serious, and it’s not something that you can treat on your own. However, understanding your situation and being proactive can help a great deal. Here are some helpful tips for things you can do help speed up your recovery.

  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. Take walks and eat healthy foods. Not only will these things help shed that baby weight, they will help you feel better too.

  • Take time for yourself. Get dressed and get out of the house. Hire a sitter, and relax with your friends. The best way to take care of your baby is to take care of yourself.

  • Avoid isolation. Sometimes, being alone allows time for those negative thought to creep up. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Join a group for new moms or a breastfeeding class or support group.

  • Set realistic expectations. Your life has just been turned upside down. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself do do everything. Do what you can, and leave the rest. It’s OK if there are some toys on the floor or you haven’t caught up with all the laundry yet. 

What If I Want to Get Pregnant Again?

If you have a history of depression or postpartum depression, tell your doctor as soon as you find out that you are expecting. Women who have dealt with postpartum depression before, are likely to get it again. If medication or counseling has helped in the past, your doctor may recommend it again. Stay in contact with your doctor so she can keep on eye on you and your symptoms and offer suggestions on the way.

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