This week’s blog comes from the perspective of a mental health practitioner who has dealt and has a clear understanding of the dynamics involved in postpartum depression. Jasmine Elazari is a licensed marriage and family therapist working at a group practice located in Sherman Oaks called Sherman Oaks Therapy. She is a Professor at Pacific Oaks College. She received her doctorate at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
It is our combined effort to provide some highlights and insight on postpartum depression, and how women, their partners, and their team can identify the signs of symptoms of this condition.
Postpartum depression is a serious and often overlooked condition that affects women after delivery. The most effective ways to uncover this condition is to:
- Educate yourself during pregnancy about the signs and symptoms of depression
- Openly communicate with your doctors about the concerns and feelings you are experiencing during pregnancy and after delivery
- Use the depression screening tools (i.e. Edinburgh Screening) that your doctor or mental health professional provides
Up to 1 in 7 Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or her family.
Post-Partum depression does not occur because of something a mother does or does not do. There is a variety of mental, physical, hormonal and environmental changes that affect women.
After childbirth, the levels of hormones in a woman’s body quickly drop. This leads to chemical changes in her brain that may trigger mood swings. Some of the more common symptoms mothers experience include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual, or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby.
It is not unusual for women to feel the challenges of navigating through the greatest transition in life that is parenthood. Taking on the new role of a mother may warrant feelings of needing to provide the utmost care for her family, and fall short on prioritizing their care.
The care of the caretaker is critical. We recommend that our patients and their team members (partners, family members, office staff, etc) be aware of any changes in the behavior of our postpartum patients. If their symptoms last longer than 2 weeks after pregnancy, you may want to seek the help of mental health professionals.
What treatments are available to patients?
The following recommendations for treatments are from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- Counseling or Talk Therapy: Two types of counseling that are effective include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people recognize and change their negative thoughts and behaviors
- Interpersonal therapy (IPT), which helps people understand and work through problematic personal relationships.
- Medication: Antidepressant medications act on the brain chemicals that are involved in mood regulation. Many antidepressants take a few weeks to be the most effective. While these medications are generally considered safe to use during breastfeeding, a woman should talk to her health care provider about the risks and benefits to both herself and her baby.
These treatment methods can be used alone or together.
Why is it critical to recognize and treat these symptoms?
Per the NIMH:
“Without treatment, postpartum depression can last for months or years. In addition to affecting the mother’s health, it can interfere with her ability to connect with and care for her baby and may cause the baby to have problems with sleeping, eating, and behavior as he or she grows.”
With these things in mind, we encourage our patients, their partners, team members and their doctors to be vigilant about the signs and symptoms of depression. Patients should not hesitate to contact their doctor and communicate their concerns.
Do not hesitate to contact Dr. Niku directly or your own OBGYN if these are concerns that you are experiencing. You are not alone.
If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking of suicide, get help quickly.
- Call your doctor.
- Call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Call the toll-free 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).
Where can I find more information?