Postpartum depression (PPD) can be one of the most debilitating experiences a woman can have. It occurs in as many as 30% of women. Many believe the prevalence is even higher, as symptoms can go unreported in up to 80% of women suffering from PPD. It crosses all cultures and walks of life, and occurs during a time when women should be taking delight in their brand-new baby. Instead, women with PPD may feel unable to enjoy and bond with their baby, have difficulty getting out of bed and experience insomnia and loss of appetite. Some may feel irritability, anger, guilt or inadequacy. Anxiety, the other side of depression, is also an easily missed symptom.
Several factors place women at higher risk for postpartum depression, including stressful life events, lack of support, a personal or family history of depression or anxiety, marital conflict and financial strain, especially unemployment. Women with a history of postpartum or other depression or anxiety are at especially high risk for PPD. Sleep deprivation and taxing physical recovery make women even more vulnerable, and having to care for a newborn infant can significantly erode one’s ability to cope. Some describe feeling a lack of clarity, or of not feeling like oneself.
Many women decline help or treatment during this difficult time. They may feel afraid, guilty or ashamed that they are having trouble. Women with PPD who remain untreated can have difficulty bonding with their baby, which can lead to problems in child development both behaviorally and cognitively. PPD can also lead to marital stress, and in extreme cases, suicide or infanticide. (Women who have any thoughts of harming themselves or their baby should contact their health care provider immediately.)
Postpartum depression is not a permanent condition. By eliciting help and support from their family, friends and healthcare provider, women can make a significant positive impact on their experience of motherhood. The Portland area is fortunate to have a wide network of support groups, counselors, and medical providers (see below for select resources). With early intervention and a solid plan for care, women can substantially improve their own quality of life, as well as that of their family.
Treatment of PPD, which may or may not include medication, clearly benefits both mother and baby. Treatment will not eliminate stressors, resolve marital strife, or result in a clean house and a baby that sleeps through the night! But, women who have suffered through postpartum depression describe their recovery as “having a fog lifted,” and generally feel more like themselves and are better able to cope. They are more able to enjoy their babies and participate more fully in their lives.
We routinely screen women for depression both during and after pregnancy. We have an extensive list of resources, including mental health care providers, crisis centers and group therapy sessions that are geared especially toward women with issues surrounding reproduction. Mental health is as important as physical health, and it is easy to forget about yourself when you are busy caring for your new infant. If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, it is important to discuss them with us so that we can help you get started down the road to recovery.
Postpartum Mood Disorder Resources
- Baby Blues Connection: (503) 797-2843 or (360) 735-5571
- Postpartum Depression Helpline: (800) 944-4PPD
- Multnomah County Crisis Hotline: (503) 988-4888
- Washington County Crisis Hotline: (503) 291-9111
- Clackamas County Crisis Hotline: (503) 655-8724
Sources: Image – Everyday Health