May is Mental Health Month and it’s been a busy month but there is still time for an article about post-partum depression and why a new mother’s mental health is important to her child and herself. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton did videotaped studies of a baby’s response first to his mother’s smiles and chatter and later to her indifference. The study shows a baby that is at first happy, kicking and cooing and then later angry, crying, kicking and even trying to hurt himself to get out of his seat in order to get his mother’s response. Dr. Brazelton’s study indicates that girl babies withdraw, and boy babies become more violent. ( Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley in Ghosts from the Nursery.)
To assess how serious your postpartum depression may be you can go online and find a copy of the Edinburgh Post-Partum Depression Screening. There are other risk factors that you want to take into consideration as well. Have you experienced depression in the past, do the women in your family have histories of experiencing depression, have you or anyone in your family been diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder? Any of these increase your risk of suffering an episode of postpartum depression. Environmental experiences are also risk factors. Have you suffered a significant loss recently, did you suffer abuse or neglect during your childhood, are you having relationship problems with your baby’s father, how good is your support system, are there relationship problems with your mother or other stressors with relatives and or friends ?
If you have had a previous episode of post-partum depression and you did not resolve that problem before you became pregnant again you are even more at risk for severe post-partum depression. There have been several mothers in the news in the past few years who suffered from post-partum psychosis which threatened the lives of their children. Depression with psychosis is not common and the best prevention is to treat a less serious depression. Treatment is essential.
If you are pregnant and experiencing irritability, loss of sexual desire, low self-esteem, difficulty making decisions, mood swings, obsessive thoughts, panic talk to your health care professional. If you have experienced depression in the past, post -partum or prior to your pregnancy, if you have a new baby and you are experiencing depression and stress talk to your health care provider. There are other causes of depression symptoms in pregnancy that are equally important to identify like, thyroiditis, iron-deficiency anemia or diabetes. Talking to your doctor is very important. Treatment ranges from medication, counseling as well as non-traditional treatments. Talk to your physician before trying biofeedback, acupuncture, exercise, meditation, Yoga or one of the many other non-traditional forms of therapy. While any treatment will help some women, there is no specific therapy will be able to help every woman. What works for one may not work for another so it is good to keep one primary caregiver in the loop to help make good decisions about your care.
If you or someone you know are afraid that you cannot keep from harming your baby, yourself, or another person call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255 or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.
Conquering Postpartum Depression by Ronald Rosenber M.D. and Deborah Greening PHD and James Windell MA. 2003
Ghosts from the Nursery, by Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley 1997
Postpartum Depression Demystiified by Joyce A. Venis, RNC and Suzanne McCloskey 2007