How to Manage Postpartum Depression

Motherhood is a time of many emotions and changes, but there is a difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression. 

Symptoms of Baby Blues

  • Very common
  • Feelings of worry, unhappiness and fatigue
  • Starts 2-3 days after birth
  • Usually gets better on its own within two weeks

Symptoms of Postpartum Depression

  • Interferes with ability to do daily life activities
  • Intense feelings of sadness, anxiety and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from friends or family or thoughts of harming yourself or baby
  • Usually starts within 1-3 weeks after birth through up to a year after birth
  • Requires medical treatment 

Dr. Kristen Plastino, OB/GYN at University Health, says that of the moms her department treats, about 10% will develop postpartum depression. 

According to Plastino and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the onset of postpartum depression can happen any time within the first few weeks through up to a year after birth. 

While there are risk factors associated with postpartum depression such as a previous history of depression or pregnancy and birth complications, it can also occur among women who experienced a healthy pregnancy and birth.

“Isolation, or the feeling of being isolated, will contribute to how new moms will get support during the postpartum time.” Plastino said. There are many ways to get help if you suspect you might have postpartum depression. The first step Plastino recommends is to find a doctor you trust. Be comfortable enough with your doctor to tell them you are not feeling like yourself.

Use Telehealth

Technology today allows us to meet with our doctors over video chat and eliminates unnecessary trips to the office. Many doctors and patients are utilizing telehealth more due to the pandemic. “Telehealth is really important because there is so much a physician can get from a patient through the screen,” Plastino said. 

Making appointments and keeping them, even if they are virtual, is important during the postpartum period. You can always come in for a physical exam at a later date if there are no urgent physical health concerns. 

However, Plastino stresses that it is important to seek in-person care if you are experiencing any physical symptoms that need immediate attention such as mastitis or an incision site not healing properly.

Breastfeeding Combats Postpartum Depression

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding has been shown to have benefits for both mom and baby. It creates a unique physical and emotional connection between mom and baby and releases good hormones your body can use to combat postpartum depression. 

If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding, a University Health lactation consultant can assess latching and any other issues you might encounter during your breastfeeding journey. We also host online breastfeeding classes.

Ask for Help

“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness,” Plastino said. “Just because you might not have been depressed the first or second child does not mean you won’t be this time. It is ok to ask for help.”

There are also steps that partners, friends and coworkers can take to ensure new moms are doing OK. If you notice a new mom is exhibiting signs of postpartum depression, don’t hesitate to reach out. Assist them in asking for help from their doctor. It is important that we watch out for each other now more than ever. 

“I tell the dads at the prenatal appointments that they will be a big part in looking for warning signs of postpartum depression. If you notice that she is withdrawn and experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, encourage her to reach out to her doctor. If she won’t reach out, you might have to reach out for her,” Plastino said.

Resources and Support

Every new mom should have a six-week postpartum visit and take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Screening at least once in the postpartum period. If you score equal to or greater than 10 at any time you might have postpartum depression, and it is important you schedule a visit with your doctor.

If at any point you recognize the symptoms of postpartum depression in yourself or another new mom, seek help from a doctor right away. Asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do for yourself and your new baby.

Postpartum Support International is a great resource to help mothers get connected with professional support and to learn more about this common condition.

Take the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Screen or a postpartum depression risk assessment to help you determine if you need to talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling.

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