As a family physician, I’ve had the privilege to deliver over 1500 babies in my career.
Attending a birth and seeing the miracle of birth is one of the most wonderful aspects of being a family physician.
Yet, even with my over 25 years of experience, I was surprised by a study showing that as many as one in five women in the U.S. may suffes from postpartum depressive symptoms.
Those at greatest risk share at least one of these five risk factors:
The findings were published in the April 11 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and was based upon a huge survey of more than 52,000 new moms who had given birth within the past two to six months.
The authors of this report urged “healthcare providers [to] screen women for the condition through the first year after they’ve had a baby.”
But, I think there’s a message here for all of us who attend churches, live in neighborhoods, or are involved in social circles that have women who are pregnant.
Each of us have the wonderful opportunity of “coming alongside” these women to both (1) offer our support and prayers and (2) be on the lookout for symptoms of postpartum depression – and, should we see this, help the new mom see a pastoral professional, mental health counselor, or their personal physician.
After having a baby, most women experience mood swings. One minute they feel happy, the next minute they start to cry. They may feel a little depressed, have a hard time concentrating, lose their appetite or find that they can’t sleep well even when the baby is asleep. These symptoms usually start about 3 to 4 days after delivery and may last several days.
We call this the “Baby Blues” and it is both common and transient. This is a normal part of early motherhood and usually go away within 10 days after delivery.
However, as this study tells us, one in five women have more severe symptoms or symptoms that last longer than a few days. This is called postpartum depression.
What are the signs of postpartum depression?
According to familydoctor.org the symptoms of postpartum depression include:
If you, or someone you love, has these symptoms, then help them make an appointment. There is help available.
In addition, if you have given birth recently and are feeling sad, blue, anxious, irritable, tired, or have any of the other symptoms of postpartum depression, remember that many other women have had the same experience.
You’re not “losing your mind” or “going crazy” and you shouldn’t feel that you just have to suffer. According to FamilyDoctor.org here are some things you can do that other mothers with postpartum depression have found helpful (with my comments added):