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Ask Dr. Marla: Postpartum Depression

Q. I had a baby two months ago and I love him so much, but I’m wondering if I’m experiencing baby blues or postpartum depression. I feel sad all of a sudden and just burst into tears. I feel neglected, rejected and unloved by my husband who used to be affectionate towards me. Now when I talk to him about what I am feeling, he ignores me, watches TV or works on his laptop. Please advise me.

A. As many as 80 percent of all mothers will have some postpartum blues, commonly called the baby blues. Its onset is within the first month after childbirth. Typically the feelings of being sad and upset, tearful, overwhelmed and exhausted are normal. These feelings usually will pass in a few days. However, for some women, these feelings do not disappear over the following weeks. It is estimated that anywhere from three percent to as many as 20 percent of births are associated with postpartum depression.

Symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms of depression that occur at other times. These symptoms include excessive fatigue, sad mood, changes in appetite, inability to concentrate, changes in sleep patterns (even when there is someone there to relieve them), tearfulness and irritability. There is lack of interest in pleasurable activities and often feelings of guilt and worthlessness. While these symptoms can be seen in depression in general, postpartum depression also has features of lack of interest in the baby, excess anxiety about the baby’s health and the mother’s thoughts of harming herself or the baby.

The onset of postpartum depression can be gradual. Many women are fearful of talking about their feelings. As a result, diagnosis and treatment are often delayed.

The Ontario Prevention Clearinghouse has come up with a list of questions for new mothers to ask themselves. Symptoms that are present for more than two weeks might mean you have a postpartum mood disorder. These include:

  • Not feeling yourself
  • Being sad or tearful
  • Feeling exhausted, unable to sleep
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Feeling overwhelmed, can’t concentrate
  • No interest or pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed
  • Feeling hopeless or frustrated
  • Feeling restless, irritable or angry
  • Feeling extremely high or full of energy
  • Feeling anxious, panicky
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed
  • Not bonding with the baby or being afraid to be alone with the baby
  • Repeated scary thoughts about the baby

Given the description of your feelings, it is critical that you see your physician for diagnosis and management. It is critical that you be treated appropriately. I would encourage you to have your husband accompany you to your doctor’s office so that he may be given the best tools to help support you through this period of time.

Click here to submit your question for consideration by Dr. Marla.

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