How to Treat Postpartum Depression

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  • 5/27/11
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  • Treating Postpartum Depression
    Many women struggle with the “baby blues” after the birth of a child. They may experience crying episodes, mood swings, anxiety, irritability and trouble sleeping. Baby blues tend to go away after a few days or weeks. Sometimes, however, women develop postpartum depression, a more serious condition. Symptoms of postpartum depression include extreme fatigue, intense anger, anxiety, failure to bond with the baby and even thoughts of harming self or baby. If left untreated, postpartum depression may linger for a year or longer.

    1. Call your doctor if signs of depression last more than two weeks, worsen or you have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Untreated postpartum depression interferes with child-mother bonding and can develop into chronic depression. Children of mothers with untreated postpartum depression are more likely to experience behavior and language development problems.

    2. Write down symptoms and medical history, and bring them with you to your appointment. Ask a family member or trusted friend to accompany you to help remember the doctor’s advice. Write down questions since it can be difficult to recall them in the office. Tell your doctor about any previous episodes of depression you have experienced.

    3. Work with your physician to assess the risks and benefits of various antidepressants. Some antidepressants are safe for breast-fed babies. Ask about side effects. Do not feel inadequate because you are considering medication. Up to 20 percent of women become depressed in the six months following delivery. Today’s antidepressants are much safer than medications prescribed for women 20 years ago.

    4. Talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. Some women find that estrogen replacement works to ease the symptoms of postpartum depression. Experts theorize that the rapid plunge in estrogen accompanying childbirth contributes to postpartum depression. Take note that research on hormone therapy for postpartum depression is limited.

    5. Seek counseling. It is often beneficial to express your feelings to a psychologist, psychiatrist or trained counselor and learn ways to cope with your situation. Counseling can help you deal with feelings of isolation and anxiety during depressive episodes. Continue treatment as long as recommended even if you begin to feel better. Stopping too soon can lead to relapse. Follow the recommendations of your health care provider.

    6. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family. Talk to other mothers about their experiences with baby blues and postpartum depression. Their advice can be reassuring. Ask for help in caring for your baby.

    7. Take advantage of offers of help from those around you. Accept babysitting offers and take time for yourself, whether it is to nap, see a movie or go out to eat. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t ask too much of yourself, and don’t obsess about housework. Taking good care of yourself will help you take better care of your baby.

    8. Make healthy choices. Make time for exercise. Taking walks with your baby will benefit both of you. Exercise not only improves your mood in the short term, it works over time as a natural antidepressant. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Avoid alcohol, which can worsen mood swings.

    9. Remember that depression can’t be blamed on anyone. It cannot be fixed by ignoring it and hoping that it will go away. Postpartum depression is a medical illness that requires treatment by a medical professional.

    Image Credit:  Helga Weber
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