Postpartum Depression: More Common Than You Know
New mothers with postpartum depression can feel very alone. But at least 20% of new mothers experience it. Here's how to cope.
Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression
When Merritt talked to her doctor at her six-week follow-up visit, she told
him that she was crying a lot and that things didn't feel right. "He said 'Oh,
that's just the baby blues. It's your hormones; it'll go away.'"
Her doctor was wrong. The baby blues and perinatal mood disorders are two
very different things. Some 80% of women do have the baby blues after delivery,
and it's true some symptoms are the same as for postpartum depression, such as
mood swings, sleep disturbances, and loss of appetite. Sometimes the baby blues
just involve an excess of emotion -- crying often, for no reason.
But the baby blues come and go quickly. "Generally, these symptoms start
within several days of delivery and usually go away within a couple of weeks,"
says Silverman. At six weeks after delivery, Merritt was well past the baby
True postpartum depression, on the other hand, can begin any time in the
first year after a baby is born. "The diagnostic criteria for postpartum
depression say it's a depression that starts within the first four weeks
after delivery, but it can start later than that -- or even before delivery,"
says Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a former president of Postpartum Support
International and author of Postpartum Depression for Dummies and
Pregnant on Prozac: The Essential Guide to Making the Best Decision for You
and Your Baby.
That's why it's so important during the first few months to pay attention to
any sense that things just aren't right. If you've had a psychiatric disorder
in the past or a perinatal mood disorder with a previous child, keep an eye out
for symptoms."Trust your instincts," says Karen Kleiman, MSW, LSW, executive
director of the Postpartum Stress Center and author of several books on the
disorder. "If you think something isn't right, it probably isn't. That doesn't
mean something terrible is going on, but you should get help."
Start by calling your obstetrician -- more doctors are aware of postpartum
depression issues now and can refer you for treatment. But if your doctor
dismisses your concerns, as Merritt's did, contact a local or national support