Postpartum Depression

It’s not uncommon for women to experience the “baby blues” – feeling slightly down or worried – after childbirth. In fact, around 80% of women experience this. However, if these symptoms worsen or stay around for a few weeks, it’s possible that you could be suffering from postpartum depression. According to the CDC, approximately 8 to 19% of women experience postpartum depression, and many times it goes undiagnosed.

What is postpartum depression (PPD)?

Postpartum depression is a depressive episode that begins during pregnancy or in the 4 weeks following delivery. Symptoms include sad mood, loss of interest, difficulty sleeping, decreased appetite, feelings of guilt, low self-worth, indecisiveness, or difficulty thinking or concentrating. A mother with PPD might find herself having thoughts that she is not cut out for motherhood or that she is unworthy of her child’s affection. On top of these upsetting thoughts, she might also be dealing with concerns about her own body, which often looks and feels very different following childbirth.

In addition to postpartum depression, women can also develop postpartum anxiety, panic, or obsessive compulsive disorders. These problems can take various forms, but may involve constantly feeling keyed up or on edge, extreme worry and doubt about one’s parenting practices, and even thoughts that seem scary or unfamiliar to the new mom.

Are there any factors that increase the likelihood to develop PPD?

Some mothers are at a higher risk of experiencing postpartum depression than others. A past history of depression, the occurrence of a stressful life event before or during pregnancy, lack of support from one’s partner, and medical complications during childbirth are some of the risk factors for developing PPD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Additionally, changes in hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, and sleep deprivation can contribute to PPD symptoms.

What are the common misconceptions of postpartum depression?

We sometimes hear on the news about extreme consequences (such as injury to a child) linked to postpartum depression. However, it is important to keep in mind that PPD is experienced in a range of ways, and these extreme cases represent a tiny minority of women facing depression after childbirth. Although some women associate shame and stigma with their PPD, there is no reason to do so. PPD is not something to be embarrassed about; it is a very treatable condition with biological, psychological, and social roots, just like any other potential consequence of a major medical event such as childbirth. It is no one’s fault, and it doesn’t have to last forever.

How is PPD treated?

Clinicians at Union Square Practice combine empathy and support with evidence-based approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, to help alleviate symptoms and allow a person to better adjust to new parenthood. Dr. Julia Bosson and colleagues work hard to address concerns specific to new moms and dads, resolving their distress and allowing them to enjoy this new and exciting journey of parenthood.

Can fathers have PPD?

Fathers can also feel depressed during their partners’ pregnancies or after the birth of their children. The Center for Disease Control notes that 4% of fathers have a major depressive episode during the first year of their children’s lives. Paternal PPD typically coincides with maternal PPD and can also be linked to hormonal changes.