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Beating a Bad Case of the 'Baby Blues'


Postpartum depression expert Marie J. Hayes, PhD, says that modern society fails to support women in the year following the birth of a child. The University of Maine psychologist, who was not involved in the O'Hara study, says the study findings support her theory that lack of social support is the reason why more women than ever before are developing postpartum depression.

"There has been an erosion of support to the point that women are actually alienated just after giving birth," Hayes tells WebMD. "So women are left with the same level of responsibility as [before giving birth], but with additional needs for physical and psychological recovery as well as the need to establish the entire nutritional support for the infant. ... What's going on is that [doing the right things as a mother] is something the brain is predisposed to do ... but this can be derailed in an environment that is not presenting the proper cues of social and physical support."

Interpersonal psychotherapy, Hayes says, addresses part of this problem by helping women get some of the social support they need after the birth of a child. However, she says that it takes care of only one part of the problem.

"It doesn't necessarily say to the woman that the responsibility for her roles should be on break," Hayes suggests. "There should be a significant, programmed break in her postpartum responsibilities -- and some help with the baby. I think [interpersonal psychotherapy] is certainly barking up the right tree in terms of addressing the woman's social support. But it still is putting the onus on the woman -- it says to her, 'You are not adjusting, lets see why.' I am saying it is the culture's responsibility to wake up to the fact that mothers' needs are being systematically denied."

O'Hara is following the women who participated in the study -- and their children -- to see whether psychotherapy has long-term benefits.



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