What are signs of postpartum depression?

Dear Dr. Manny,

My wife just had our first baby! She’s having a little trouble re-adjusting, and I don’t know if she has post-partum depression. What are signs of post-partum depression? How do you treat it? 

Post-partum depression is a form of clinical depression that affects women who have just given birth. Hormone levels change and drop after a woman gives birth, because the levels rose drastically while she was carrying the child. If a woman has a history of depression, or if her family has a medical history of depression, then she will be more prone to post-partum depression. 

Young women who aren’t prepared to care for a child sometimes develop post-partum depression. In fact, any major problems that may arise after birth, whether they are financial, or with the woman’s family, or substance related, can trigger post-partum depression. 

Symptoms of post-partum depression include sadness, despair, an inability to care for their infant, crying for no reason or crying much of the time, difficulty bonding with the infant, a loss in appetite, oversleeping, and difficulty focusing or remembering. 

70-80% of new mothers experience negative or depressed emotions after giving birth. This is normal. Early detection and treatment can help women and the infants who are suffering from the mother’s depression. 

These treatments include therapy, including interpersonal therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Depressed mothers need emotional support from family members and partners, and often those with post-partum depression report that they don’t feel supported. Women who are breastfeeding usually turn down antidepressants, so these women are better off receiving personal therapy. 

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first choice for women who suffer from post-partum depression. Hormone therapy is also an option. Estrogen helps women to stabilize. However, this option is not for everyone, as it interferes with lactation. 

Natural options including an increase in omega-3s in a woman’s diet, acupuncture, and exercise. It’s important to address it as soon as possible, so as to make the mother’s life easier for herself and her child.  

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