Postpartum Depression: Risk Factors and a Wellness Plan

By Guest

I’m a survivor of two life-threatening postpartum depressions. At that time there was no help for me. The great news is, that if you’re suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) or know someone who is, there are excellent resources now.

For the last 27 years my mission has been to educate medical and mental health professionals, and to work directly with women around the world to make sure they don’t suffer the way my family and I did. I’ve worked with over 21,000 women, and I’ve never met one who did not fully recover when given proper help. 

Women are most vulnerable to anxiety and depression during pregnancy and postpartum. PPD is the most common of the six perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, affecting about 15 percent of mothers – about 1 in 7. The primary cause of PPD is the huge hormonal shifting after the baby is delivered, but there are other factors. Sleep deprivation, social isolation, poor partner support, health issues, financial hardship, moving, and a high needs baby can negatively affect a new mom’s emotional state.

Read about loneliness

PPD should not be confused with the normal “Baby Blues.” Most new moms experience Baby Blues – mild ups and downs beginning the first week and disappearing by two weeks following delivery. If the symptoms are severe enough to disrupt a mom’s daily life, or if those mild symptoms continue past two weeks after the birth, it is considered PPD.

PPD often:

  • Worsens and becomes harder to treat if the mother is slow to receive help. Research shows that 25% of mothers untreated for PPD remain depressed after one year. Meanwhile, all the people and relationships within the family are also negatively affected.
  • Develops gradually, although it can occur immediately after delivery.
  • Peaks around 3 months, but can start any time during the first year.

PPD can arise for the first time after any birth, not just after the first baby. Once a woman has had one occurrence, she is at high risk for another after the next pregnancy unless she has a solid wellness strategy in place. Common symptoms are excessive worry, anger, feelings of guilt, sadness, hopelessness, sleep problems, uneasiness around the baby, poor concentration, loss of pleasure, decreased sex drive, and changes in appetite. Although there are factors that put some women at higher risk, no one is immune.

Fathers (as well as adoptive parents) can also experience depression after the baby joins the family, although not due, of course, to reproductive hormones. Fathers become depressed at the rate of at least 10 percent. They are often withdrawn, angry or sullen. A father whose partner has PPD has between a 24 and 50 percent risk of developing depression. In Chapter 16 of Postpartum Depression For Dummies I discuss why partners, if they aren’t receiving adequate help themselves, sometimes become depressed as the mom recovers.

Read more about depression

Regardless of risk factors, absolutely every mother-to-be should complete a wellness plan to stay healthy and help avoid problems after baby is born.

   The following seven suggestions are for all mothers: 

  1. Keep your expectations realistic. Discard the myths and fantasies of motherhood.
  2. Agree as a couple. Communicate wishes and make a plan together.
  3. Fuel your body with good nutrition. Include the right proteins, complex carbs, omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D3, and folate in your diet.
  4. Plan for nighttime sleep. A good strategy can help even a breastfeeding mom to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
  5. Exercise. Oxygenate the brain and keep your energy level up.
  6. Seek emotional support. Talk with friends and family members. Find other new moms who might better understand what you’re experiencing.
  7. Schedule physical support. Arrange for people to provide you with regular breaks so you can nurture yourself.

    These last two suggestions are for those who are suffering or who are at high risk:

  8. Seek professional support. Find a psychotherapist who specializes in PPD.
  9. Consider medication or alternative/complementary treatments. If you are suffering from PPD or believe you are at risk, consult with your health care practitioner about treatment options.

The most loving and responsible step a suffering mother can take for her entire family is to find help as soon as possible – just as she would for diabetes, cancer or any other potentially serious condition. With a psychotherapist or other health care practitioner specializing in PPD, she will recover and be stronger and healthier than ever before. For more information on PPD, please contact Dr. Shoshana Bennett through her website, 

Written by Dr. Shoshana Bennett, PhD, clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and pioneer in the field of postpartum depression.

Editor's Note: Choose a high-quality Omega-3 fish oil, like the one from our partner Nordic Naturals.

By Guest| February 11, 2016
Categories:  Restore

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