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When Sadness Strikes: A Look at Postpartum Depression

After having a baby, many women feel sad, cry frequently or get angry and easily irritated with everyday situations. They may feel overwhelmed, completely exhausted or even anxious and worried all the time. They find it frustrating and puzzling because they’ve been preparing for this moment for the last year of their life (or sometimes much longer), so they don’t understand why they have these feelings. They may even express what a great life they have and that there is no reason to be sad, yet they feel empty and down. Some women are familiar and accepting of depression and can readily detect when they need help while others are surprised and lost with these new emotions and try to pretend that everything is okay and that they are fine. They think these thoughts and feelings will just go away.

To clarify, it is common for new mothers to feel emotional for a couple of days after the birth of a new baby. The BABY BLUES should resolve within a week or two, however. Fifteen percent of women are affected by POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION, which is an illness that affects women after childbirth and can last for months to years without the proper treatment. Not only does this affect the woman, but her entire family often suffers because of it. Rarely, women lose touch with reality and injure themselves or their children because of abnormal physical, hormonal and emotional changes associated with having a baby. Over the past couple of years, heartbreaking stories in the news about local women who have killed themselves publically on the roads or privately in their homes have penetrated our communities. These women were our friends, our exercise buddies, our PTA members, fellow church members, and carpool moms. Our community has grieved over these dramatic losses. Recognizing the symptoms of postpartum depression, being non-judgmental of others, and ourselves, then seeking professional treatment through medications and therapy are key to stopping these heartbreaking situations.

It is important to recognize that depression isn’t a weakness or character flaw. It is an illness caused by an imbalance of the chemicals in the brain. Women who have suffered from depression or anxiety in the past, women with little to no help at home or those experiencing other life-changing events at the same time are more at risk for postpartum depression. The most common symptoms are:

  • Feeling sad or angry frequently and for no apparent reason
  • Feeling inadequate, overwhelmed or unable to cope
  • Being extremely tired and lacking energy
  • Inability to concentrate or focus
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Feeling agitated or irritable
  • Inability to sleep or sleeping all the time; hard to get out of bed
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Inability to make decisions
  • NOTE: Depression and anxiety can go hand in hand. If you worry all the time or are experiencing feelings of panic, these symptoms should also be addressed and treated appropriately.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is imperative to seek professional help. Be aware that even if symptoms are controlled (either via lifestyle or medications), the holidays or anniversaries of significant events may trigger a resurgence of depression or grief. Depression is a family affair…it affects everyone. Depression is also treatable. Most people CAN recover, lead productive lives and be happy again.

Haley Pledger, PA
Women’s Care
Matthew Walton, DO
Austin Bills, DO
Family Medicine
Aaron Fausett, PA
Family Medicine
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