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Help is available for postpardum depression

by Deidre Ashley

May, 2017 | Sound Mind | from the Jackson Hole News & Guide

With May being recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month as well as Maternal Health Month, it makes sense to talk about postpartum depression. Depression that occurs during and after pregnancy is more common that most people realize.

Childbirth comes with a variety of physical changes and intense emotions — excitement and joy, along with fear and anxiety. Many new mothers experience the “baby blues” after childbirth, which can include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping. Postpartum blues typically begin within two to three days after a baby is born and may last for up to two weeks.

Some women, however, experience more severe, long-lasting symptoms of depression known as postpartum depression. Symptoms of depression after childbirth can range from mild to severe. It is important to note that postpartum depression is absolutely not a character flaw or weakness.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 to 20 percent of women who give birth each year experience symptoms of postpartum depression. These estimates do not include women who miscarry or whose babies are stillborn. These women are also at risk, and counting them raises the estimate closer to 900,000 women each year who suffer from postpartum depression. If you add in those who never report symptoms or seek treatment due to the stigma associated with postpartum depression, the number is most likely closer to 1 million.

So what are the differences between the normal baby blues and postpartum depression? Signs and symptoms of baby blues normally last a few days to a week or two after your baby is born and may include these:

• Mood swings

• Anxiety

• Sadness

• Irritability

• Feeling overwhelmed

• Crying

• Reduced concentration

• Appetite problems

• Trouble sleeping

Postpartum depression symptoms are more intense and may last longer, interfering with your daily tasks and your ability to care for your baby. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth, but may develop up to six months after birth. The symptoms may include these:

• Depressed mood or severe mood swings

• Excessive crying

• Difficulty bonding with your baby

• Withdrawing from family and friends

• Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual

• Inability to sleep or sleeping too much

• Extreme fatigue or loss of energy

• Reduced interest and pleasure in activities

• Intense irritability and anger

• Fear that you’re not a good mother

• Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy

• Difficulty with focus, concentration or the ability to make decisions

• Severe anxiety and panic attacks

• Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby

• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Left untreated, postpartum depression symptoms may last even longer and can lead to more serious symptoms. Many mothers are reluctant to admit some of these feelings due to embarrassment or shame. If you experience symptoms talk with your doctor, especially if they do not fade after two weeks, get worse, interfere with daily tasks or caring for your baby and include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

If at any point you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, immediately seek help from friends, family members, someone in your faith community or a mental health care provider, or call 911.

You can find support from our local hotline at 733-2046 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.

Many people who experience depression may not recognize or acknowledge that they’re struggling. They may not be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression or how common it may be. If you suspect that a friend or loved one is experiencing postpartum depression help that individual seek medical attention immediately. Don’t wait.

Jackson Hole Perinatal Advocacy Project is a wonderful resource available locally for struggling moms and dads. The project has offered free support groups facilitated by a counselor. The group is open to men and women suffering from a variety of problems common to pregnancy, such as anxiety, depression and mood disorders.

The project also provides outreach and support to health care providers, families and mothers regarding education and prevention along with available options. Reach the Jackson Hole Perinatal Advocacy Project at info@jhpostpartum.org.

Deidre Ashley is executive director of the Jackson Hole Community Counseling Center. She is a licensed clinical social worker and has a master’s degree in social work.