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What You Need to Know About Postpartum Depression

By Pam Dewey • postpartum depression, signs of postpartum depression, how to know if you have postpartum depression, managing postpartum, getting help for postpartum depression, therapy for postpartum depression • June 18, 2020

Many new moms experience baby blues, leaving them feeling sad or empty after birth. However, new mothers may also face postpartum depression, which is a serious mental health issue.

Postpartum depression is more common than many people realize. It can occur within the first year after your baby is born. According to the Office on Women’s Health, 1 in 9 mothers experiences postpartum depression. Other experts suggest that up to 15% of women have postpartum depression.

You may be wondering if the sadness you’re experiencing after giving birth is just baby blues, or if it’s something more. Fraser Mental Health Clinical Program Manager Claire Hysell says, “You should trust your instincts. If you think that something is wrong, it probably is. If you’re overwhelmed, you might need some help.”

Here are some of the symptoms that you may experience with postpartum depression:

  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Trouble enjoying your daily life
  • Feeling anxious and tense
  • Difficulty connecting with your baby
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Issues focusing or making decisions
  • Loss of appetite or eating too much
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Feeling like you are worthless or a bad mother
  • Cutting contact with friends and family
  • Thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby

Postpartum depression can manifest as physical symptoms too. You may feel tension in your chest or shoulders and have headaches or stomachaches.

If you experience these symptoms for more than two weeks, you should reach out for help. You can also have these symptoms while pregnant, which is known as perinatal depression.

Hysell also cautions that mothers shouldn’t blame themselves for the onset of postpartum depression. Good mental health as you enter pregnancy can help, but isn’t a guarantee you won’t experience symptoms.

“The best plan is to be open and honest about what you’re experiencing,” says Hysell. “You can’t prevent postpartum depression, but you can seek help right away versus later on.”

If you or your loved one seems to be facing postpartum depression, reach out to your healthcare provider or your OBGYN. Even if your doctor doesn’t specialize in treating postpartum depression, he or she can refer you to someone who can help.

There are some great local programs like the Mother-Baby Program at Hennepin Healthcare. Fraser also offers mental health services like individual and family therapy, as well as parent and child interventions such as Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-Up (ABC) and Child-Parent Psychotherapy (CPP). Hysell says one of Fraser’s specialties is understanding the caregiver experience of parenting.

Treatment for postpartum depression can include individual or family therapy. You may go once a week or several times, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Some women also benefit from medication, like anti-depressants and anti-anxiety.

“You as a caregiver are so important to your child’s life,” Hysell says. “Reaching out for help is a great thing to do for you and your baby.”