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Postpartum Depression Health Center

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Out of the Blue

Brooke Shields discusses her painful struggle with postpartum depression.

Blue Lagoon continued...

She claims that she had no mother's intuition at all.

Friends and family were quick to dismiss her sorrow and disinterest as a case of the "baby blues" that would disappear with some much-needed rest. But her sadness escalated rapidly into postpartum depression. Shields found herself crying more than Rowan did, and she says she suffered a mini-breakdown on her first post-pregnancy job interview to do a commercial for Bright Beginnings infant formula. She was plagued by feelings of self-doubt and self-harm. And if thoughts of suicide weren't frightening enough, Shields also suffered disturbing visions of seeing her daughter flying through the air, hitting a wall and then sliding down it, although, she is quick to clarify, she was never the one throwing her.

The words "postpartum depression" didn't mean much to her at first, but they finally hit home when a virtual stranger told her about the guilt, shame, and reclusiveness that were connected to postpartum depression -- the same symptoms she had struggled with since the baby was born.

Brooke Shields: Model Candidate

Exactly which mothers will develop postpartum depression is not fully understood, but risk factors do exist. In Shields' case, these risk factors may have been red flags. They can include a complicated or difficult labor. Rowan was delivered via an emergency C-section with an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. In addition, Shields' uterus herniated during the surgery, and she lost a lot of blood. Her doctors even considered performing a hysterectomy (the removal of a woman's uterus) if the bleeding did not stop. Fortunately, it did and her uterus was successfully repaired.

Another risk factor for postpartum depression is a temporary upheaval, such as the death of a loved one. For Shields, this was her father, who lost his fight with prostate cancer just three weeks before his namesake was born. She was also still mourning the death of her best friend and Suddenly Susan co-star David Strickland, who committed suicide in 1999.

In addition, women who undergo other stressors, including in vitro fertilization (IVF), may also be at higher risk for postpartum depression. Shields is, as she puts it, "cervically challenged," making conception difficult. Like many women, she underwent several failed attempts at IVF before conceiving and taking a baby to term. Part of the treatment involved Henchy giving her shots of hormones in her rear end to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs. (The first time he had to do it, she says, he almost passed out, but with practice he became "a pro.") The drugs had to be given so regularly that the couple traveled with the syringes; they feared the tabloids would find out and assume she was doing illicit drugs. Still, IVF challenges were not her only ones. Shields also says she has a short cervix due to scarring that occurred years before when she had surgery to remove precancerous cells. Factor in a highly publicized divorce, a family history of depression, a miscarriage, and no baby nurse or help, , and she was an ideal candidate.

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