Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman's life. Bringing a new person into the world and enjoying the prospect of motherhood as a beautiful life grows inside of you is a forever-changing event. This time is filled with many significant transformations that take place biologically, psychologically, and socially. Unfortunately, one of the changes that impacts anywhere from 9-16 percent of women is postpartum depression. Postpartum depression typically emerges within the first six months after childbirth. Many women experience the “baby blues” which are characterized by mild depressive symptoms, tearfulness (often for no discernible reason), anxiety, irritability, labile mood, increased sensitivity, and fatigue. The baby blues typically peak four to five days after delivery and can resolve by the tenth postnatal day. Even though the postpartum blues are often short in duration, it can be an indicator of later onset of postpartum major depression. Postnatal depression is a chronic disorder with multiple symptoms that progressively increase in intensity and do not abate on their own. A woman who suffers from postpartum depression experiences dysphoric mood, along with disturbances in sleep, appetite, psychomotor agitation/retardation, fatigue, excessive guilt and worries, and suicidal thoughts. The symptoms often are severe and result in impairment of functioning.
Postnatal depression occurs more frequently in the general population than one can imagine. Studies suggest that symptom profiles of postnatal depression occur across all cultures and within any socioeconomic context. In addition, postpartum depression does not just occur in women. Recent research indicates that men could also suffer from prenatal and postpartum depression. Men can present with similar symptoms; however, research shows that men tend to struggle with irritability, detachment, and emotional withdrawal. Depression is a serious and debilitating problem, which holds a commonality among women during their childbearing years. Untreated, postpartum major depression may decrease in severity within several months, but can linger into the second year postpartum. Relationship difficulties, adverse life events during pregnancy, and lack of help, are risk factors for the onset of postpartum depression. Once a woman has experienced one episode of postnatal depression the likelihood that she will experience another depressive episode significantly increases. If left untreated, the risk or probability of a second depressive episode increases in likelihood, further endangering both the mother and infant. The risk of becoming depressed during future pregnancies also markedly increases in probability. A vast amount of research has been conducted and the data has demonstrated that the mother and child relationship suffers greatly when mothers are depressed. In addition, these children are cognitively and socially delayed because of their mother’s depression. The literature suggests that individual psychotherapy has been effective in treating prenatal and postpartum women who suffer from depression or anxiety.
As leaders in the field of family mental health, we support and encourage the overall wellbeing of new parents to allow for optimal attachment, growth and emotional stability across the lifespan. Our adult specialists, Dr. Lindsay Howard and Kristina Daniels, M.A., offer expertise in postpartum depression and women's issues (specifically fertility, relationship, intimacy, and commitment difficulties). Please contact us at 561.429.2397 if you have any questions, or for more information on therapeutic services.