Post Partum Depression

Postpartum depression is sneaky. It occurs within minutes, days, weeks or months after childbirth. It is considered a major depressive episode and it is not something that is natural or that can be ignored. It is also not treated with vitamins as everybody's favorite post partum expert Tom Cruise has suggested. It is just not 'the baby blues.' 

Symptoms of post partum depression include anxiety, agoraphobia, paranoia persistent feeling down, lethargy, indecisiveness, lack of care about the appearance, negative thinking, feeling overwhelmed, an inability to concentrate, disassociation, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, insomnia or oversleeping, fatigue, and irritable mood.

Sometimes this form of depression is also accompanied by hateful thoughts about the child or including the desire to harm or kill the child. You might feel like you can't handle being in the same room as the child one more minute longer. 

When is postpartum considered to be serious?  A mild case of the baby blues officially becomes post partum if feelings of sadness after birth last more than two weeks. If you know someone like this encourage him or her to get help. It is also very important to stress to your friend that none of this is her fault. Postpartum depression is quite common. It occurs in about 15 percent of mothers. 

Mothers most likely to get post-partum are those who already have a history of depression and those who have had it before. There seems to be no real explanation as to why some new mothers experience postpartum depression and others do not.  Doctors blame it on lowered estrogen levels and shifts in progesterone, cortisol, and beta-endorphin levels. In other words, post partum is the consequence of your body manufacturing hormones and chemicals in a way that makes you feel sad, hostile or depressed. 

Unfortunately many women do not recognize the chemical and hormonal activity going on in their body as being responsible for the way they feel. They prefer to blame themselves because they feel so inadequate and guilty about the hostility that they feel towards their child. Usually the inner critic is turned on full blast and you can't do anything right. If you feel suicidal after having a baby or if you know a mother that has any of the above symptoms it is very important that you get her to be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Post-partum is a serious condition that can create an altered state of reality. Sadly sometimes post partum depression can cost both the mother and the baby their lives. However this does not mean you want to treat the mother like a murderer! Don't give post partum any more stigma then it already has a condition.  Too many mothers who have had it have been described as unfit. 

Keep in mind too that talking to an individual with post-partum depression can be quite difficult. This is because part of the syndrome is irritability and paranoia. She will want to sleep and avoid responsibility but your chore as a friend is to get her out of bed and to see the doctor!