About AOA

The joys of motherhood are never fully experienced until all the children are in bed.
- Unknown

 

Postpartum Depression

Depression after childbirth is called postpartum depression. When you are pregnant, levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, hormone levels quickly return to normal. Researchers think this rapid change in hormone levels following delivery may lead to depression. This is much like the way smaller hormone changes can affect a woman's moods before she gets her period.

Levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that helps regulate how your body uses and stores energy from food. Low levels of thyroid hormones can cause symptoms of depression. A simple blood test can tell if this condition is causing your symptoms. If so, your AOA doctor can prescribe thyroid medicine.

Postpartum Depression

Other factors may play a role in postpartum depression. You may feel:

  • Tired after delivery
  • Tired from a lack of sleep or broken sleep
  • Overwhelmed with a new baby
  • Doubts about your ability to be a good mother
  • Stress from changes in work and home routines
  • An unrealistic need to be a perfect mom
  • Loss of who you were before having the baby
  • Less attractive
  • A lack of free time

Certain factors may increase your risk of depression during and after pregnancy:

  • If you take medicine for depression, stopping your medicine when you become pregnant can cause your depression to come back. Do not stop any prescribed medicines without first talking to your doctor. Not using medicine that you need may be harmful to you or your baby.
  • A personal history of depression or another mental illness
  • A family history of depression or another mental illness
  • A lack of support from family and friends
  • Anxiety or negative feelings about the pregnancy
  • Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth
  • Marriage or money problems
  • Stressful life events
  • Young age
  • Substance abuse

Women who are depressed during pregnancy have a greater risk of depression after giving birth.

What is the difference between "baby blues" and postpartum depression?

Many women have the baby blues in the days after childbirth. If you have the baby blues, you may:

  • Have mood swings
  • Feel sad, anxious, or overwhelmed
  • Have crying spells
  • Lose your appetite
  • Have trouble sleeping

The baby blues most often go away within a few days or a week. The symptoms are not severe and do not need treatment.

The symptoms of postpartum depression last longer and are more severe. Postpartum depression can begin anytime within the first year after childbirth. If you have postpartum depression, you may have any of the symptoms of depression listed above. Symptoms may also include:

  • Thoughts of hurting the baby
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself
  • Not having any interest in the baby

Postpartum depression needs to be treated by a doctor.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your baby blues don't go away after 2 weeks
  • Symptoms of depression get more and more intense
  • Symptoms of depression begin any time after delivery, even many months later
  • It is hard for you to perform tasks at work or at home
  • You cannot care for yourself or your baby
  • You have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

Your AOA doctor can ask you questions to test for depression and can also refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in treating depression.

Some women don't tell anyone about their symptoms. They feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy. They worry they will be viewed as unfit parents. Please keep in mind that any woman may become depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby. It doesn't mean you are a bad or "not together" mom. You and your baby don't have to suffer. There is help and your AOA physician is there to provide that help.

Here are some other useful tips to help you adjust to the changes that come with a new baby:

  • Rest as much as you can. Sleep when the baby is sleeping.
  • Don't try to do too much or try to be perfect.
  • Ask your partner, family, and friends for help.
  • Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
  • Discuss your feelings with your partner, family, and friends.
  • Talk with other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Join a support group. Ask your doctor about groups in your area.
  • Don't make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Major changes can cause unneeded stress. Sometimes big changes can't be avoided. When that happens, try to arrange support and help in your new situation ahead of time.

All children deserve the chance to have a healthy mom and all moms deserve the chance to enjoy their life and their children. If you are feeling depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby, don't suffer alone. Please tell a loved one and call your AOA doctor right away.

Resources:

http://kidshealth.org/parent/growth/medical/first_gyn.html

http://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/101/first-visit-to-gynecologist.aspx

http://www.yourcontraception.com/e-zine/handbook/first-visit-to-gynecologist.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/postpartum-depression/DS00546

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/postpartumdepression.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ultrasound.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/ultrasound/MY00308/METHOD=print&DSECTION=all