Ilyene Barsky, ACSW, LCSW
Postpartum depression (PPD) is a real and common occurrence that
is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed, or overlooked. Many underestimate
the seriousness of PPD and dismiss it as the "baby blues"
which is a temporary and short-lived condition.
majority of new mothers are not prepared for any severe depression
and most baby care books barely touch upon it. A mother who has
had babies before may have experienced PPD, but even for her and
especially for a new mother, it usually comes as a complete surprise.
And when it hits, it is terrifying. The woman often feels embarrassed,
ashamed, and tremendously guilty.
can happen to virtually any women regardless of age, race, religion,
level of education, or socioeconomic background. It is important
to remember that the woman suffering from PPD is only a human being
caught in the midst of an emotional illness. It it imperative that
educators, counselors, etc., be able to distinguish the differences
between transient "baby blues" and chronic, debilitating
to eighty percent of all women delivering in U.S. hospitals may
experience "baby blues." Symptoms include fatigue, unprovoked
crying, anxiety, confusion, and disorientation. No specific treatment
for this condition is considered necessary by healthcare professionals.
The "baby blues" are believed to be caused by a dramatic
drop in hormone levels that accompany childbirth. Most importantly,
the "baby blues" are transient in nature and self-limiting.
the "baby blues," PPD is a hormonally and biochemical
induced reaction to the body's upheaval in the giving birth. However,
unlike the "baby blues" which usually has an early onset
(within the first two weeks postpartum), PPD can occur anytime within
the first year postpartum. Whereas the "baby blues" begin
and end suddenly, the onset of PPD is usually slow and insidious.
may begin as the "baby blues" and develop or it can have
a later onset. Whereas the primary symptom of the "baby blues"
is anxiety, PPD is marked primarily by depression. Symptoms include
crying for no apparent reason, numbness, helplessness, frightening
feelings and thoughts, over-concern for the baby or no feelings
for the baby, insomnia, change in appetite, anger, anxiety, guilt,
lack of interest in sex, an inability to concentrate, a compulsive
need to talk or to withdraw, exaggerated highs or lows, feelings
or inadequacy and an inability to cope with day to day activities.
incidence of PPD in the mild to moderate range is estimated at 10
- 20% of all births. Healthcare professionals tend to minimize the
importance and impact of this disorder. However, if left untreated,
mild to moderate depression may become progressively severe.
is impossible to accurately predict which women will become depressed
after delivery. Some women seem to run a significantly higher risk
following factors indicate a higher than average risk:
- depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy
episode of PPD after a previous birth
history of mood illness not related to childbearing
or siblings with histories of mood illness
alcoholic, abusive or sociopathic father in the home while the
woman was a child
from a parent during childhood
unhappy or highly stressed childhood
anxious personality stucture
long, difficult, or complicated labor
birth experience that failed to fulfill unrealistic expectations
a premature, compromised, or defective baby.
a pregnancy woman is aware of having some of these factors in her
personal history, she would consider herself at risk and seek counseling
during both her pregnancy and the postpartum period.
at risk woman requires superior nutrition, adequate rest, and above
all, emotional and psychological support during and after the pregnancy.