By Sarah Campbell, MFT
For a new mother (whether or not this is the first baby), the transition to motherhood brings with it a myriad of emotions from elation to misery. Most women experience a brief period of mixed emotions as they adjust to the physical and emotional changes following the birth of the baby. Otherwise known as The Baby Blues, these feelings of sadness, tearfulness, and mild anxiety usually last for a few days to a few weeks. Baby Blues affects approximately 80% of new mothers and goes away on its own.
A more serious, yet treatable condition known as Postpartum Depression (PPD), impacts roughly 15% of moms. Some of the main differences between Baby Blues and PPD are time of onset, and duration & severity of symptoms. PPD can occur at any time during the first year of the baby’s life, and symptoms such as sadness, irritability, exhaustion, and ambivalence persist without treatment. If left untreated, PPD can have a lasting negative impact on the entire family.
What causes PPD?
A growing body of research has concluded that each case of PPD depends on the mother’s subjective experience. In other words, some studies have shown that PPD is related to hormones while other research has indicated that PPD is due to social isolation. Some experts agree that postpartum depression is linked to unstable partnerships, while others believe that PPD is the result of difficult pregnancy or labor. At Piedmont Psychotherapy, we believe that each woman’s story is unique and her treatment will reflect her individual needs.
How might I know if I suffer from PPD?
Postpartum Depression is diagnosed in women who have experienced at least five of the following symptoms for over a two week period:
- Sadness, crying, or irritability
- Decreased interest in pleasurable activities
- Changes in weight
- Sleep disturbances (i.e., unable to get back to sleep after night feedings and/or inability to nap when the baby naps).
- Feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth
- Lack of concentration
- Suicidal thoughts
(DSM-IV TR, 2000)
If you have been experiencing some or all of these symptoms, call your healthcare provider. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you will begin to feel relief. Remember that PPD is treatable and that you are not alone.