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Postpartum Depression

Many new mothers feel overwhelmed by the responsibilities that present themselves at the birth of a child. These feelings can be heightened by rapid hormonal changes. Many women feel mildly sad, irritable, anxious, and emotional. However, in 10% of new mothers these symptoms become extreme and constitute a debilitating depression . Postpartum depression is more prevalent in women who have a predisposition or family history toward mental health disorders.

Postpartum Depression

According to authors , symptoms of the disorder include recurrent crying, sleep disturbances, change of appetite, feelings of worthlessness, lack of concern for personal hygiene, reduction in energy levels and decreased concentration. Telling comments that reflect resentment, irritability or anxiety toward motherhood or children, or suicidal thoughts should be treated with immediate intervention. Mothers who suffer from postpartum depression will likely find that their symptoms affect how they interact with their new infants. Because this is such a vital time of development, when children must develop a sense of safety, security and trust in the world around them, disruptions in the mother child relationship can have detrimental, long term effects.

The most effective interventions for many medical conditions include properly preparing for the eventuality. Therefore, education and the arrangement of preventative supports prenatally are both important initiatives for combating postpartum depression. Expectant mothers need to know the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. They also need to recognize that developing these symptoms does not mean that they are a bad mother or unable parent effectively. If mothers believe that postpartum depression will disgrace them or bring on criticism, they will be unlikely to seek help and may instead choose to hide telltale signs. There is a likelihood that mothers, as aware as they are of the symptoms, might not recognize the signs that manifest in themselves.  For this reason it is important that education also impart this information to the mother’s partner, family and friends.

There is another reason that spouses, families and friends should be a part of the planning process that occurs during the prenatal period. Families can be the most important defense against PPD . There are studies that suggest that excessive stress can exacerbate feelings of despair, and can be a factor in escalating typical baby blues to the point of depression. In cultures where there is a strong system of familial and community support for new mothers, where less is expected of new mothers and more help is traditionally offered, there are significantly fewer cases of postpartum depression.

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