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What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a common mental health condition affecting about 1 out of every 9 women who give birth. PPD is different than the expected fatigue and mood swings present for about 2 weeks after giving birth. If the fatigue, overwhelm, or moods swings last beyond those 2 weeks, or seem to be worsening, it is time to talk with your healthcare provider. 

Symptoms of PPD can be mild or severe. Common symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness that don’t go away
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Lack of interest in things you normally care about
  • Poor appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty bonding with your child
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

If you have a history or family history of depression, have financial difficulties or lack of emotional support, or had an unplanned pregnancy, you are at a higher risk of developing PPD. 

I think I might have PPD. What do I do now? 

First, reach out to your healthcare provider and to a support person you can trust. Your healthcare provider will want to talk with you and will give you a questionnaire to help determine how to best help you. Your provider may refer you to a mental health counselor for talk therapy, prescribe medications, or both. Both you and your baby benefit from treatment.

It is important to talk with your support person as well, whether that be a partner, family member, or friend you can trust. There are things you can do to help yourself while you are going through PPD, such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and getting enough exercise.

For more help:

Postpartum Support International has a non-emergency helpline at 1-800-994-4PPD (4773). You can talk with someone about your experiences and questions, and they can help you get connected with local resources.

If you find yourself thinking about suicide, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

National Institutes for Health https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/Documents/HappiestTimeOfYourLife.pdf

Sources:

National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Perinatal depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression/index.shtml

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (2019). Moms’ mental health matters. Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/ncmhep/initiatives/moms-mental-health-matters/moms

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health (2019). Postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/postpartum-depression

Support in Postpartum Depression

You have talked with your healthcare provider and have been diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD). Perhaps you have been referred to a mental health professional for therapy, or you have been prescribed medication. You have also been reaching out for help with the baby and other responsibilties in order to reduce stress and increase rest. In addition to following your provider’s recommendations, what are some other ways you can help alleviate your PPD symptoms?

Ask for help

It can be difficult for women experiencing PPD to ask for help. PPD can cause some women to feel withdrawn, inadequate, or guilty. But PPD is not your fault, and the support of others can help both you and your baby during your recovery. A support person can hold your baby while you take a nap, help out with meals or laundry, and provide emotional support.

Support groups

Another recommended source of support are support groups, both local and online.

Register here

Postpartum Support International can help connect you with local support groups. They also conduct weekly online support group meetings. You can register here.

Postpartum Progress, an international resource for PPD related information and support, has a state-by-state directory of support groups here.

Sources

Alhusen, J.L., & Alvarez, C. (2016). Perinatal depression; A clinical update. Nurse Practitioner 41(5): 51-55. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4841178/

American Psychiatric Association (2020). Postpartum depression. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pi/women/resources/reports/postpartum-depression

Introduction

Thanks for stopping by! My name is Pam. I’m a registered nurse and a student pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree. I’m here to provide some information regarding postpartum mental health and to connect you with helpful resources.

Having a child changes everything. Hormonal changes, new demands on your time and attention, and a new role as a mother are just a few. Life is different now, and you may feel some topsy-turvy emotions at first. But if you are feeling hopeless, tearful, overwhelmed, or sad for longer than two weeks after giving birth, you may want to talk with your healthcare provider about postpartum depression. 

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