Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Basics of Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can be a very real problem for mothers. Many mothers feel some "ups and downs" after their babies are born. The sad feelings are commonly called "the baby blues." Though a mother may feel down when she's not getting enough sleep or can't comfort her baby, the feeling doesn't persist. Postpartum depression is different. The sad feelings, anxiety, and perhaps a sense of being "empty" don't go away -- they continue through daily life. Postpartum depression, though scary, generally responds well to treatment, letting a mother enjoy her baby and her life.

What Are the Signs of Depression?

It's normal to have some feelings of sadness or anxiety when you have a new baby. Your life has changed in major ways! New moms often find that lack of sleep is a real problem. If you have a baby with high needs you may find yourself holding a baby for hours and hours each day. This can cause some feelings of being burned out -- or "touched out." But if these feelings persist for more than a few days to a couple of weeks, you may be dealing with postpartum depression. Some signs to look for are:

  • You're crying frequently

  • You feel overwhelmed

  • You feel sad or hopeless

  • You can't focus

  • You can't make decisions

  • You feel restless

  • You have no energy

  • You can't get motivated to do anything

  • You feel very moody

  • You're eating too little (or you're eating too much)

  • You are having trouble with your memory

  • You find yourself withdrawing from friends and family

  • You feel withdrawn from your baby

  • You lose pleasure in things you usually enjoy

  • You feel worthless

  • You feel guilty

  • You have physical problems that won't go away (headaches, stomach aches, etc.)

Again, it's normal to feel overwhelmed as a new mom. It's normal to have some hard days here and there. But if these symptoms are persistent you may be struggling with depression. Your doctor can help you figure out if there's a physical cause for your feelings or if you have postpartum depression.

Why Does it Happen?

Postpartum depression is not uncommon, with many new moms (and pregnant mothers) experiencing depression each year. There are some factors that make it more likely.

A big one is family history; if depression runs in your family, it's more likely that you will experience it. Stressful events in your life can also trigger depression, which is why a big event like pregnancy and childbirth may be a root. These are things we normally thing of as happy times, but that's not always the case. An unexpected pregnancy, gender disappointment, pregnancy complications, poor childbirth experiences, and fussy babies can all make a mother prone to depression.

There's also strong evidence to suggest that postpartum depression is a result of nutritional deficiency, especially fat deficiencies. Many mothers are not getting enough essential fatty acids in their diets. During pregnancy the baby pulls all of these fatty acids because they're vital for his or her growth. This leaves the mother, who was probably already deficient, with even less, leading to mood problems and depression. The best way to prevent this is for the mother to get plenty of fish, olives, avocados, coconut oil, pastured beef (cows raised eating grass, not grain), and other healthy sources of these fatty acids.

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