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What You Need to Know About Peripartum or Postpartum Depression

A patient and a counselor sit together in a counseling session

Peripartum or postpartum depression (PPD) is a form of depression that affects many pregnant women and new mothers.

Mental health professionals generally don’t use the term “postpartum” because postpartum indicates symptoms start after a woman has given birth. In reality, depression often sets in while the woman is still pregnant, which is why some doctors prefer the term “peripartum.”

When It’s Not the “Baby Blues”

Nearly 70% of all new mothers experience “baby blues” after giving birth. Usually attributed to your hormones adjusting postpartum, the baby blues can make you weepy, anxious, and nervous. You may cry at television commercials, or find yourself stressing out about events that normally don’t bother you, like taking your baby on a walk. The baby blues is short-term, however, and you generally find you’re feeling better in about two weeks.

But PPD is different. Symptoms of PPD are more severe and last much longer. Women suffering from PPD often experience:

  • Restlessness or fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying often without reason (for longer than the two-week “baby blues” period)
  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Guilt or fear that you are a terrible mother
  • Worry that you can’t take care of your baby
  • Fear you will hurt the baby or yourself
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in life.

Women enduring these symptoms may try to hide it from their friends and family because they’re ashamed or embarrassed, or they worry that others will think they can’t be a good mom.

You’re Not Alone

Women often cover up their PPD or dismiss it as “a hormonal thing,” but in reality, PDD affects one in seven women. Some women are more susceptible to it if they have a history of depression in their families, but truthfully, any woman can develop PPD during pregnancy.

Many healthcare professionals have new mothers fill out forms to gauge their mental health and help determine if they have PPD. But it’s important that you communicate with your doctor right away if you think you are experiencing PPD. Don’t assume it’s something that will just pass.

How Postpartum Depression Can Affect Children

If PPD is left untreated, it can hinder the bond mothers form with their children. It can also affect sleeping and eating patterns for babies, and impair their cognitive, emotional, and social developments.

As a new mom, you should not be cheated out of your opportunity to enjoy the time you spend with your new baby. Getting treatment for your PPD allows you the chance to marvel over every second you get with your precious little one.

Treatment for Postpartum Depression

PPD can be treated like other forms of depression. Medication, therapy, and changes to diet and physical health are all viable options. Taking an antidepressant can help stabilize your mood. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can still take certain antidepressants, but be sure to discuss medication with your doctor to ensure you take the safest option.

Postpartum Counseling is another outlet that has helped many women with PPD. Talking about your feelings and learning how you can take steps to change the negative thoughts to positive ones can have a profound effect on your feelings about motherhood.

Women who reach out about their PPD will realize they’re not alone or imagining things. Instead, they can learn to enjoy motherhood.