Many of us have heard of postpartum depression at some point in our lives, but never has the debate over its validity been so hot. With the advent of celebrity Brooke Shields' book Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression, accounting her own battle with the illness, it seems everyone has something to say on the subject. In one of the more controversial aspects of the book, Shields talks about taking anti-depressants for treatment of extreme despair and suicidal thoughts. Shields used the popular drug Ritalin during her illness, and- while she will not be taking this drug during her next pregnancy due to unpleasant side effects- Shields did champion the general use of anti-depressants, claiming they made her feel "content." Some physicians, on the other hand, do not condone the use of anti-depressants after pregnancy because of breastfeeding complications.
Other notorious opponents who take a similar stance include fellow celeb Tom Cruise. Cruise publicly denounced the use of anti-depressants during an appearance on the "Today Show," saying Shields should have turned to "vitamins and exercise" instead. As a result of this celebrity feud, much of Tinseltown (and the general public) are paying more attention to postpartum depression, and its potential implications.
But what exactly is postpartum depression, and how do you know if you have it? Post-pregnancy, many women experience mood swings, depression, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, and insomnia. These symptoms generally occur about three to four days after the baby is born, and may last several days. The good news? This isn't postpartum depression. These symptoms add up to a completely normal phenomenon knows as the "baby blues," which is just a mother's way of adjusting to the changes in her body. These blues usually last about ten days after your baby is born. If the symptoms last longer and worsen however, that is where postpartum depression may come in. According to an April article in American Family Physician, postpartum depression is a genuine illness, just like diabetes or heart disease. It can be medicated with a combination of counseling, support and anti-depressants. Symptoms of postpartum depression include: apathy towards life, loss of appetite, loss of energy, insomnia, oversleeping, excessive crying, feelings of worthlessness, irritability, dramatic weight loss or gain, and homicidal or suicidal thoughts. Though many women feel down after just having a baby, it is the later onset of depression-about six weeks to six months after childbirth-that doctors diagnose as postpartum depression. Physicians indicate that the women who are most likely to experience postpartum depression are: those who have experienced the condition in the past, those who have struggled with depression in the past, those who suffer from severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or traumatic pregnancies, and those who feel isolated in their marriage or their lives. Postpartum depression is a mysterious condition, and not much is known about how it is contracted. Some suspect that changes in hormone levels produce chemical changes in the brain that cause depression. Clinically put, during pregnancy the amount of two female hormones- estrogen and progesterone- increase, but in the first 24 hours after childbirth, the level rapidly drops back down.
Researchers think the rapid shift in hormone levels may account for the depression, just as similar shifts account for a woman's mood swings during PMS. In addition, thyroid levels can also drop after birth, and broken sleep patterns and not getting enough rest can also make a new mother feel weak and down. Like all depressions, this kind of depression can happen to anyone and doesn't have anything to do with the kind of person you are. Psychologically, feelings of being overwhelmed, stressed, pressured, and having a changed routine can lead to postpartum depression, as can loss of personal time, career time, and "couple time". For some women, postpartum depression lasts only a few weeks, but for others it can last months. If you feel like you may be suffering from postpartum depression, or even just the "baby blues," don't bottle it up inside or worry that you are "losing it." Here are a few steps recommended by mothers who have gone through similar situations: find someone to talk to about how you feel, get help with nannying, housekeeping, and errands, have some "you" time everyday: take a walk, read a book, or just relax, keep a diary of your feelings, and don't get mad when you can't accomplish all your goals in one day. In other words, don't expect yourself to be "supermom." If your condition worsens, consider counseling, light therapy, talk therapy, contacting a professional support group or a physician.
Remember, postpartum depression is not uncommon, and in many instances there is a relatively simple remedy. Most importantly, postpartum depression is a temporary condition, and when it's all over you will be ready to enjoy life with your fresh-out-of-the-oven cupcake! Some info taken from: American Family Physician familydoctor.org