As a social worker and a doula providing postpartum care to mothers, postpartum depression is near and dear to me. In this blog post I want to briefly go over what we know about PPD, and answer any questions that are left in the comment section.
What is the difference between postpartum depression and "baby blues" ?
The majority of new moms experience baby blues after delivering. It might look and feel just like depression with weeping, sadness, irritability, anxiety, and confusion, but it usually peaks around the fourth day after delivery and resolves on its own around ten days postpartum. If baby blues turn into PPD it can be anywhere between four weeks and six months after the baby has been born. While the symptoms are pretty similar to the baby blues, if it's PPD, it impacts the mothers ability to care for herself and her baby (Wisner, Parry, Pionket, 2002). Untreated PPD lasts an average of seven months.
A lot of time and money has gone in to studies about PPD, why women experience it, and how to provide care and treatment if it does occur. What we have found out through these studies is that development of PPD is not impacted by education level, sex of the baby, whether or not the mother breastfeeds, how the baby was born (c-section or vaginal delivery), or if the pregnancy was planned or unplanned. The biggest contributing factors are sudden changes in reproductive hormones once the placenta has been delivered, a history of depression, complications during delivery, and the occurrence of stressful life events (financial, marital conflict, and the absence of support, Cooper & Murray, 1998). We also know from these studies that if a woman has had PPD before, her chance of experiencing it again is approximately 25% greater than women who have never had PPD (Wisner, Parry, Pionket, 2002).
Now that we know a little more about postpartum depression, how do we support the women in our lives?
Now that we know a little more about postpartum depression, how do we support the women in our lives? The predominant medication for treatment is Prozac (fluoxetine) which seems to work better than the other antidepressants when treating PPD. Prozac can help with the hormonal aspect, but we cannot neglect the social and supportive factors either. If a woman in your life is struggling with more than the baby blues my suggestion is to visit with her, provide company and conversation, support her, and aid with baby care.
Personally, as a postpartum doula with years of mental health training, I talk to mothers about their changing role as a mom to this new baby, and review important relationships in their lives. Studies have shown that nine visits over thirteen weeks by a postpartum doula or trained professional substantially improves the mothers mood and ability to care for her new family (Cooper & Murray, 1998).
Cooper, P. J., & Murray, L. (1998). Postnatal depression . BMJ : British Medical Journal, 316(7148), 1884–1886.
Wisner, K., Parry, B., Piontek, C. (2002). Postpartum Depression. New England Journal of Medicine, 347 (3), 194-199).