Bringing a new life into the world can be one of the happiest moments for a couple, but for many women, it may also elicit feelings of sadness and despair.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), up to 80 percent of mothers experience feelings of sadness, fatigue, and worrying, associated with the effort of caring for a new baby. These symptoms, known as the “baby blues,” are mild and improve on their own within two weeks. By contrast, symptoms of postpartum depression are more severe, impair functioning, and require treatment.
At least one in nine women experience symptoms of postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Symptoms include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or irritability, excessive worrying, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, losing interest in activities that you previously enjoyed, changes in appetite, and isolating yourself from your friends and family.
Symptoms may even include difficulty feeling attached to your baby, doubting your ability to care for your baby, and having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
Some women are at an increased risk of experiencing postpartum depression. These women include those with a previous history of depression either during or after pregnancy or at another time in life, history of bipolar disorder or substance abuse, a family member with a history of depression, medical complications or stressful life events during pregnancy or delivery, and limited emotional support from friends and family.
If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression, it is essential to know that there is help available. Early detection and treatment result in improved outcomes for women and their babies.
Seek help from a psychiatrist or psychologist to learn more about treatment options, including medication and therapy. The Food and Drug Administration in March approved the first drug specifically for postpartum depression, Zulresso, used as an intravenous injection.
Be open and honest with your family and friends about how you have been feeling.
Ask a trusted friend or family member for help caring for your baby so that you can rest, participate in an activity that you enjoy, and focus on your overall health, both physical and psychological.
If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255), 911, or go to the nearest emergency department, and be sure to alert a friend or family member to ensure the safety of your baby while you seek treatment.
Janice Rios, M.D., is a voluntary assistant professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Lisa Oliveri, M.D., is a PGY-4 psychiatry resident at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.