Postpartum Depression


What is postpartum depression?

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Many new mothers experience a mild sensation known referred to as “baby blues” after giving birth to their newborn. This temporary feeling lasts only a week or two and interferes little in day-to-day living.

A more serious and afflicting mood disorder is postpartum depression, which generates deeper feelings of hopelessness and anxiety surrounding a baby’s birth. In rare cases, the disorder may develop into an even more dangerous condition called postpartum psychosis.

It is important to recognize that postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness or a flaw in the mother’s character. It is, however, a common and very treatable condition. We recommend a prompt evaluation if you witness symptoms or suspect that postpartum depression may be an issue for you or a loved one.

Is Postpartum Depression Common?

It is widely believed that mental health concerns developed from perinatal experiences are under-diagnosed, meaning that there are likely many more cases of postpartum depression than estimated. Approximately 25 percent of women go through some form of depression or other mental health condition after giving birth. The likelihood of developing postpartum depression is highest in the first year of a mother’s new baby’s life.

Men can also be affected by the addition of a new baby. About 10 percent of new fathers develop a paternal form of postpartum depression. When the father’s partner also experiences depression, this number grows significantly.

Alarmingly, only about 40 percent of mothers with postpartum symptoms pursue treatment. Untreated, the condition may extend into the child’s formative years or worsen into postpartum psychosis. Accordingly, for the health of the mother, the father, and the baby (as well as any other children or family members in the home), an early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to restoring normal mental health across the household.

What Causes Postpartum Depression?

While there is no single cause that initiates postpartum depression, there are a variety of recognizable risk factors that can affect a mother’s mindset as she adjusts to her new life with an infant. Over the course of her pregnancy and in the early period of her newborn’s life, a new mother will experience significant hormonal fluctuations.

Along with these changes in her body, other life changes will have an impact on her emotional and mental well being. Adjusting to a new person in her home will come with new challenges – the marital relationship may suffer, financial concerns can arise, and feelings of isolation and low support can all contribute toward postpartum depression.

Mothers with a family history of mental illness or related concerns may have an increased likelihood of developing postpartum depression. Accordingly, it is healthy and wise to be aware if any family members have had mental health issues.

What are Symptoms I Should Look For as Indicators of Postpartum Depression?

As with most mental health disorders, symptoms of postpartum depression vary widely and can also appear similar to other mental health conditions. Some of the key factors to watch for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Helplessness / hopelessness
  • Anger or rage
  • Loss of appetite (or excessive eating beyond what is normal for the mother)
  • Significant fatigue or energy loss
  • Inability to sleep
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or activities
  • Doubting your ability to care for your baby
  • Trouble bonding with your baby
  • Feelings of shame, guilt, or being inadequate
  • Thinking about harming your baby or yourself
  • Thoughts of suicide and death

When should I seek help?

If you’re wondering if you should seek help for postpartum depression, chances are you should. You will only help your situation by initiating early treatment or by eliminating concerns with a negative diagnosis.

However, when in doubt, we suggest seeking a doctor’s care if your symptoms:

  • Make caring for your baby difficult
  • Don’t diminish two weeks after giving birth
  • Get worse as time passes
  • Decrease your ability to finish normal, everyday tasks
  • Involve hurting yourself or your baby

What are the Consequences of Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression can lead to other health concerns for both mother and baby. Untreated, the risks and consequences escalate even higher.

Children falling under the care of a mother with postpartum depression often experience developmental delays as well as other important processes including emotional stability, cognitive development, and stress management as they grow into adults. These children also suffer increased risk of anxiety and depression throughout their own lives.

Similarly, mothers can be equally affected by untreated postpartum depression. Maternal suicide is greatly increased when mother’s experience postpartum symptoms. The mother-child bond can be impaired significantly as well. Postpartum depression can lead to:

  • Low emotional connection with her child
  • Failure to use infant car seats
  • Forgetfulness in child safety matters (childproofing the home, etc.)
  • Avoiding pediatric checkups
  • Difficulty breastfeeding

What Treatments are Available for Postpartum Mothers?

Postpartum depression can develop into one or more of many common disorders including anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other brain dysfunctions. Formulating the proper treatment plan for the patient’s unique situation is critical.

At Bridgepoint, our trained specialists conduct a thorough evaluation with each patient to ensure a proper diagnosis first. Then, a comprehensive treatment plan to address the underlying mental health issue is developed with all health care professionals involved.

A first step in treatment is to ensure a healthy lifestyle is adopted by the mother (and the entire family). Exercise is a vital part of a robust life, and we encourage mothers to adopt a regular regimen of exercise. Include your baby whenever possible — take walks with your baby or have the baby nearby when exercising.

We also want to ensure your brain is functioning properly to provide positive reinforcement to counter any negative thoughts. Individual or group therapy is always an option to help re-train the brain in healthy thought patterns. We can also help train you to address and resolve the negative emotions you are experiencing.

Your diet is an important factor in mental health. We will work with you to ensure your meal plans include the right nutrients to stimulate healthy brain function as well as your body’s physical needs during this period.

Medications may be a part of your therapy. As with any prescriptions, be sure your professional is licensed and trained to ensure the right medicines are employed. The wrong medications can make your condition worse.


How do I Get Started?

If you feel that you or a loved one may be experiencing postpartum depression, we encourage you to take a positive step toward healing and contact us at Bridgepoint today. We will quickly assess and diagnose your situation so that you can begin returning to a healthy mental state for you and providing a healthy home where your new baby can thrive.

Visit Our Resources Page

Bridgepoint encourages clinicians, patients, and their loved ones to research new methodologies and techniques to improve mental health and wellbeing. To assist with your own learning, we’ve put together a variety of resources on a variety of topics – including genomics – to help you on your mental health journey.

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Black Psychologist Lady Comforting Soldier Woman In Uniform During Therapy Session