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Postpartum Depression

By Kami Mogensen, BSN, RNC & Helen Hurst, DNP, RNC, APRN-CNM

Postpartum Depression

Post-birth, most moms (as many as 85%!) experience some form of the baby blues. This could be feeling irritable, exhausted, needing to cry for no reason or worrying that you won’t be a good mom.

These mood swings may be due to hormonal changes, lack of sleep, the physical recovery from labor and birth, and usually go away on their own quickly in the first 1-2 weeks.

Postpartum Depression

But for as many as 15% of new moms, the baby blues develops into postpartum depression (PPD), and this can happen anytime within the first year of giving birth. PPD’s symptoms are more intense:

  • Feelings of doom
  • Lack of joy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Intense anger
  • Emotional numbness
  • Feeling like you never should have become a mother
  • Feeling unable to care for yourself or your baby
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby
  • Desire to withdraw from others, including your baby
  • If you have any of these symptoms post birth, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. Sometimes you may be too tired to notice the symptoms, but your husband, partner, a family member or friend may share that something just isn’t quite right.

Postpartum Psychosis

Beyond PPD is another problem that affects fewer than 1% of all moms but it’s the more extreme: postpartum psychosis (PPP). Seek medical treatment immediately if you are experiencing extreme symptoms, such as:

  • Hearing voices or seeing things others do not see (hallucinations)
  • Paranoia or suspicions about others
  • Recurrent thoughts of harming your baby

PPP typically occurs suddenly and within the first 4 weeks after birth. You may only have one incident but it warrants a 911 call. Just like PPD, it can be treated. It’s essential to recognize your symptoms and get treatment.

Are you at risk for postpartum depression?

Tell your healthcare provider and partner if you have any of the following:

  • Complications during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
  • History of depression, including PPD, or anxiety
  • Had infertility, a miscarriage or stillbirth
  • Had an unplanned cesarean or baby in the NICU
  • Worry about your relationships
  • Financial stress

Reduce Stress

Do something every day to reduce your stress, such as:

  • Get outside for a walk or picnic
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Call a friend
  • Listen to music
  • Get a massage
  • Join a mom’s support group
  • Practice yoga
  • Take a nap
  • Write in a journal

Get Support

  • Postpartum Support International: 1-800-994-4773 or postpartum.net
  • National Postpartum Depression Hotline: 1-800-PPD-MOMS

Helen Hurst, DNP, RNC, APRN-CNM, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby. Kami Mogensen, BSN, RNC, is a labor and delivery nurse at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, CO.

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