Managing Depression After Pregnancy

Many moms experience the “baby blues” shortly after giving birth. But when mood swings don’t subside and the blues hang on, it’s time to face another diagnosis. Here’s how to prepare for the possibility of postpartum depression.

woman holding baby

According to the Child Center and Adult Services, a mental health counseling organization in Gaithersburg, Maryland, up to 80 percent of new mothers experience the baby blues -- a feeling of letdown that can include crying for no apparent reason, impatience, irritability, restlessness and anxiety.

However, the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression (PPD) is that the symptoms of the blues usually disappear on their own within the first two weeks of giving birth. If the feelings carry on past this two-week mark -- and for 10 to 20 percent of new moms, they continue and intensify -- PPD is likely the diagnosis.

Preparing for the possibility of PPD

A woman is at higher risk of developing PPD if she has a previous history of depression and other mood disorders, reports Child Center and Adult Services. Knowing is half the battle.

Prep for the possibility of depression after pregnancy just like you're prepping for the arrival of your child and any situation that may occur. "If a mom is at high-risk for depression, she should reconnect with or find a therapist who specializes in perinatal mental health. If she has needed medication in the past for depression or a mental health issue, be in touch with an M.D. who has experience with postpartum illness," says Shoshana Bennett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies and Pregnant on Prozac.

And don't be averse to medication, even if you're breastfeeding. "Experts in the field agree that if a woman truly needs an antidepressant to be well, she can still breastfeed if she chooses," Bennett adds.

Enlist support from others

"Often PPD can be avoided by putting together a wellness plan before the baby comes," says Bennett. "Discuss your expectations and wishes with your partner about the daily (and nightly) tasks." This doesn't just mean splitting up who's doing what for baby duty. Pieces of the plan should also include making sure that mom is getting the proper nutrition, sleep, emotional support, physical support and exercise.

"Let close support people know that if they see mom suffering -- not able to sleep at night when baby's sleeping, loss of appetite, getting angry, losing self-esteem, crying often, becoming very anxious -- they should raise the subject of getting help," Bennett explains.

Ultimately, the goal is to have a happy mom and a happy baby. When a woman is new to motherhood, or even going through it a second or third time or more, there is always the possibility that PPD could occur. Support -- both social and professional -- is crucial, explains Bennett. "You will recover to 100 percent with the right help, and the faster you find that help the better the prognosis for the whole family."

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