You’ve just had a baby. Of course you’re tired. Maybe you’re struggling with breastfeeding, and you’re not getting enough sleep. But is your anxiety just a symptom of the baby blues or is it something more serious?
Brittany Durment’s twin boys, Wyatt and Parker, were born prematurely and spent weeks in the NICU. It was hard to leave her babies there, Durment said and even harder to watch other mothers leaving the hospital with babies in their arms.
“I saw the mom carrying the baby,” she said, “and I left mine.”
Wyatt and Parker did go home, but months later. Durment’s obstetrician, Dr. Erin Mankus, noticed that Durment was still struggling. The doctor brought it up at one of their appointments. That’s what it took for Durment to realize she could get help to feel better.
“Ultimately, it took someone saying, ‘Hey, I know you know this is how you are feeling, but this actually isn’t a good way,’” Durment said.
Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women, and when it lingers untreated, it can be debilitating for mother, baby and family.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling emotionally disconnected
- Lingering feeling of depression
- Decreased energy
- Loss of interest in normal activities
Five or more of those symptoms lasting for more than two weeks fits the clinical diagnosis of postpartum depression, said Dr. Mankus, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Health San Antonio.
One potential catalyst for postpartum depression can be if a woman stops taking medication during pregnancy, she said.
“Make an appointment with your obstetrician and identify what medications you’re taking and why,” Dr. Mankus said. “Because the treatment of depression during prenatal care is vital to making sure we don’t develop postpartum depression after delivery.”
Other risk factors include:
- Symptoms of depression during or after a previous pregnancy
- Previous experience with depression
- Stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth
- Medical complications during childbirth
- Lack of strong emotional support from friends and family
Durment said talking about the situation with a supportive person is the best way to get started on the road back to a healthy emotional balance.
“Just be honest and open up with it,” she said.
Postpartum.net is a great resource to help mothers get connected with professional support and to learn more about this common condition. You can also take a postpartum depression risk assessment to help you determine if you need to talk to your doctor about how you're feeling.