Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

Bigger than the Blues
Recognizing, treating and overcoming postpartum depression

by Katrina Anne Willis

July 01, 2013

“You are not alone.”

When asked if she had any advice for other moms struggling with postpartum depression, these wise words are what Indianapolis mom, Rachel, chose to share.

After giving birth to her daughter one year ago, Rachel began experiencing postpartum depression (PPD) symptoms. Unable to adequately care for her three-year-old son, her husband and her household, she locked herself and her newborn baby away in the privacy of her bedroom where she succumbed to Netflix marathons and an overwhelming sense of sadness.

“I wasn’t interested in anything except being in bed, holding my baby. I didn’t even want to spend time with my son, so he sat in front of the TV while I was in my room. I felt like there was a cloud over my head all day long.”

Recognizing PPD

Up to 80% of all new moms experience some form of the “baby blues” after giving birth. Symptoms include bouts of unexpected crying, sadness, anxiety and irritability and usually

subside without treatment one to four days after delivery. When symptoms persist beyond two weeks and extend into panic, an inability to function or thoughts of self-harm or injuring the baby, moms are typically diagnosed with PPD, according to Indianapolis licensed psychologist Beth Buckingham, Ph.D., HSSP.

“There are varied types of postpartum mood disorders, including PPD, postpartum anxiety and postpartum psychosis,” says Buckingham. “All should be taken seriously, and all are 100% treatable.”

Causes and treatment

There is no single cause of PPD. Instead, scientists believe PPD likely results from a combination of biopsychosocial factors, including genetic vulnerability, personal or family history, neurochemical variability, pregnancy hormones or neurotransmitters, psychological vulnerability, and/or cognitive styles and coping mechanisms associated with having a baby.

Research indicates that some new mothers are more susceptible to PPD, including those with financial strain, marital stress, substance abuse, physical inactivity, a family history of depression or prior bouts of PPD.

“PPD isn’t necessarily selective, though,” Buckingham warns. “It can strike any new mom at any time. The key to both mom’s and baby’s health is seeking out treatment and support immediately.” Treatment itself differs by the type and severity of postpartum mood symptoms and may include psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, support groups and/or medication.

“Seeking help was critical for me,” Rachel says. “As soon as my husband and I realized what I was experiencing was probably PPD, I went right to my doctor. She gave me a prescription, and I went into counseling soon after. Both the meds and the counseling have helped a lot, but I still have ups and downs. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive husband who has been the epitome of patience and grace through all of this.”

A helping hand

For Rachel, dealing with PPD has been an ongoing challenge and commitment. “When you have PPD, it feels really, really lonely at times. But there are other women to connect with who understand you. Find one – in person or online – who has made it to the other side. Don’t let anyone undermine what you are feeling. Our bodies are complicated machines, and chemicals and hormones can get unbalanced. It’s important to remember that PPD is just a season and that with the right tools and coping mechanisms, you can get out from underneath that dark cloud.”

If you or someone you love is suffering from PPD, don’t be afraid to reach out for support. If you’re contemplating thoughts of death, suicide or harming your baby, contact a crisis hotline immediately. Local and national resources are provided here, and your OB/GYN can provide additional contacts. Remember Rachel’s sage advice: “You are not alone.”