BABY BLUES OR SOMETHING MORE SERIOUS by Linda Riley, LMFT

Many new mothers feel sad and tearful after childbirth. Because this is so common (80-90%) we call it the Baby Blues. It usually is considered a normal reaction to hormonal changes and the stress of adjusting to motherhood. The symptoms are rather mild and typically last for only a few days to a week and are usually gone after a couple of weeks. However, it is important not to confuse the Baby Blues with a more serious condition called Post Partum Depression. This is a type of Major Depression that affects about one in ten women sometime within the first year following childbirth. Having a baby is considered by society to be a wonderful experience and it is often over idealized considering the number of women who experience low mood and emotional liability. This over-idealization can promote unrealistic expectations that result in disappointment.
Many times a new mother feels inadequate and doesn’t have a supportive husband and family. It can be difficult adjusting to all of the changes a baby brings into one’s life. Postpartum Depression often goes undiagnosed and can have very long term and damaging consequences for the mother, the baby and the partner.

To avoid these negative long term affects it is important to be aware of PPD and its symptoms. The symptoms are: sadness, excessive crying, feeling worthless, anxiety, lack of energy, irritability and guilt. Usually there is a loss of interest in activities including sex with accompanying feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Women can feel like they are going crazy. They may perceive that their partner, family and friends are only interested in the baby or start to think that they are a bad mother. Inability to sleep due to depression or nursing adds to the problem. Women who experience PPD are extremely anxious and often preoccupied with negative thoughts and feelings which often results in marital tension.

It is paramount to recognize PPD to prevent the long term consequences. Research has shone that untreated or undiagnosed PPD adversely affects the mother’s mental health, the mother-infant bond and the marital relationship. It is therefore important for women to be aware of the psychosocial risk factors that make it more likely for a particular woman to develop PPD. Some of these stressors are: traumatic deliveries or birth complications, health problems of the mother or baby, job loss resulting in financial worries, poor marital relationship and conflict between the woman and her family. A family history of depression is a significant risk factor or a history of sexual abuse.

Depressed people have distorted thinking that contributes to their depression. Therapy can help people examine their negative beliefs and change their thinking and perception. Therapy can also address relationship issues that contribute to depression. Women suffering from PPD need to be encouraged to get evaluated and treated.

What you can do to help yourself or someone you know struggling with PPD:
Consider seeking therapy
Socialize more- have lunch with your partner or a friend
Relax more by trying relaxation techniques
Journal
Laugh more because it minimizes stress-rent funny movies
Reach out to supportive family and friends
Positive self talk
Read spiritual or inspirational books
Exercise
Get relief from constant child-care

Remember untreated depression usually does not remit on its own, so be sure to get help if you need it. It is important to detect PPD and have early intervention to prevent the severe negative impact on the family. Successful treatment often involves the use of medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

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