Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression

Another kind of problem that is NOT specifically related to breastfeeding is postpartum depression. The La Leche League believe that “Breastfeeding is not a contributing factor to postpartum depression. In fact, the hormonal changes after birth occur more gradually when a mother breastfeeds.”

Postpartum depression can be quite dangerous to your health and to your family’s health too, so I decided to talk about it here. There are many levels of depression:


  • Baby Blues
    breastfeeding and baby bluesBaby blues is a mild form of depression that occurs right after the baby is born. It usually lasts for no more than 3 weeks. A woman is moody, a little sensitive, is forgetful, and often distracted. No one knows exactly why the Baby Blues occur, but it may have something to do with the hormonal changes in a woman’s body, the lack of sleep, and the anti-climatic time after baby is born. About 50% to 85% of women who have just had a baby will experience Baby Blues. [Photo: Down Came the Rain by Brooke Shields.]

  • Postpartum Depression
    breastfeeding and postpartum depressionA woman who has postpartum depression has all of the above but in a more extreme form. She can have illogical or irrational thoughts and be unable to determine what is realistic and what is unrealistic. She may be lethargic and not care about others, or she may be hypersensitive and over react to the smallest suggestions. About 10% to 15% of women have postpartum depression. It can occur anytime within the first year after the baby is born.
    [Photo:Mommies Cry Too by Harcarik and Brink.]

  • Postpartum Psychosis
    postpartum phychosisA woman who has postpartum psychosis is in quite a bit of trouble. She may be delusional, have hallucinations, and have suicidal or homicidal thoughts. She may not sleep, be severely depressed, and make illogical decisions. Woman who have postpartum psychosis should seek medical advice IMMEDIATELY. About one in 500 women will have postpartum psychosis (0.2%). [Photo:The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood by Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett

Who gets postpartum depression and why does it happen?

  • It is suggested that postpartum depression is caused by a woman having to cope with the changes in her lifestyle. For example: having to care for a newborn, not getting enough sleep, and being isolated from friends and co-workers. However, there is no medical evidence to suggest that this is true.
  • Many people say that postpartum depression occurs because a woman’s hormone levels change dramatically after the baby is born. However, there is no medical evidence to support this either. If anything, the changes in hormone levels seem to cause Baby blues (the mild form of depression). A woman’s hormones levels do change dramatically, however, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that these hormone levels are what causes postpartum depression.
  • The following factors have been shown to predict who will most likely develop postpartum depression. Women who have/are:

    • Prenatal depression, (depression during pregnancy)
    • Low self esteem
    • Childcare stress
    • Prenatal anxiety
    • Life stress
    • Low social support
    • Poor marital relationship
    • History of previous depression
    • Infant temperament problems/colic
    • Baby blues
    • Single parent
    • Low socioeconomic status
    • Unplanned/unwanted pregnancy

Treatment

  • Women with Baby blues should be monitored to make sure the condition does not worsen into postpartum depression. For the most part, you can help a woman come out of the baby blues by giving her a lot of support. Physical support such as:
    • helping wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry
    • cook dinner, encourage her to eat, and drink water,
    • take the baby for a walk so she can rest, nap, or sleep.

    Provide emotional support by telling her that she’s doing OK, talking to her so she does not feel isolated, and providing her with a safe and cozy-warm environment.

  • Women with postpartum depression may cause harm to herself and/or her newborn baby. It is likely that she will not be able to identify that she has a problem. So it will be up to her support system to take her to a doctor. Postpartum depression can be treated by medication or psychotherapy (counseling).
    Again, encourage her to eat well, drink plenty of fluids, and get as much sleep as possible.

  • If you suspect that a women has postpartum psychosis you should take her to the doctor IMMEDIATELY. She will be place on medication and may need to be monitored continuously (cannot be left alone or left alone with the baby).

  • read about postpartum depression from La Leche league
  • read about postpartum depression from wikipedia.com
  • compare the 3 types of postpartum depression
  • see books on postpartum depression
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