Q: What is postpartum depression? Am I at risk?
A: Postpartum depression can happen to anyone. Normal feelings of sadness and being overwhelmed after having a baby are completely normal. We call it “baby blues”. It happens because the mother has undergone a major life change. Her body has changed, her social relationships have changed, she is not sleeping, having sex, and is experiencing a drop in hormone levels, which during pregnancy were elevated and provided an “emotional high.”
When these feelings of sadness, change in concentration, guilt, decreased energy, hopelessness and appetite changes extend beyond two weeks after birth, doctors worry about postpartum depression.
Although any woman can be diagnosed, there are risk factors that do exist. A very young or older mom are at higher risk, as is someone who had not planned her pregnancy. A mother who has financial worries or lack of social support is also at increased risk to develop depression. Someone who has pre-existing depression or a strong family history will more likely be diagnosed with depression.
If a mother notices her baby blues are lasting longer than two weeks, she should call her health care provider. Treatment options include making social changes, therapy and medications. The depression is never normal if it interferes with ability to take care of the baby.
The great news about postpartum depression is that doctors are better educated about it to both treat and diagnose it. This particular depression does not last forever, symptoms are usually gone by a year’s time.
Dr. Somi Javaid, OB/GYN; Co-Founder MamaDoc