Living Well

Understanding Postpartum Depression

Tara Morse, D.O.
Understanding Postpartum Depression

It is not uncommon for new moms to have the “baby blues” during the first days or weeks after delivery. The “baby blues” often happens suddenly after delivery. The “baby blues” consists of symptoms such as, feelings of disappointment, crying for no reason, irritability, impatience, anxiety and restlessness.

It is common for the “baby blues” feelings to go away soon after they start and usually without treatment. These symptoms may also be present in postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a more severe form of baby blues, and women with postpartum depression may have trouble coping with their daily tasks.

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is much more serious and lasts longer than the “baby blues.” The following are the most common symptoms of postpartum depression. But each woman may have slightly different symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • A fear of harming the newborn or yourself
  • Mood swings with exaggerated highs, lows, or both
  • Lower sex drive (libido)
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Low self-esteem
  • Uncontrolled crying and with no known cause
  • Over concern or over-attentiveness for the newborn, or a lack of interest in the newborn
  • Appetite changes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Resentment
  • Memory loss
  • Feelings of isolation

What causes postpartum depression?

While the exact cause for postpartum depression is unknown, it is likely that a number of different things are involved. These may include:

  • The changing of roles (as a spouse and new parent)
  • Hormone and metabolic changes after delivery
  • Stress
  • Personal or family history of mental illness, particularly depression
  • Marital strife

How is postpartum depression diagnosed?

A typical diagnostic procedure for postpartum depression includes a complete health history, physical exam, standardized questionnaire, and/or psychiatric evaluation. In many cases, you may need laboratory screening tests to find any hormone or metabolic problems that may serve as an underlying cause.

Sad Woman speaking with physician

Treatment for postpartum depression

It is important to note that most women who get the “baby blues,” postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, or postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder have never had these symptoms before, especially with such intensity. In any case, it is important to get proper treatment early and not be afraid to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing. This is not only to make sure that the newborn remains safe and properly cared for, but also so that you can experience all the joys of motherhood.

Specific treatment for postpartum depression will be determined by your healthcare provider based on:

  • Your age, overall health and health history
  • How serious your symptoms are and how long they have lasted
  • Whether you are breastfeeding
  • Your tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Psychological treatment, which may include both you and your family or partner.
  • Peer support such as support groups and educational classes
  • Stress management and relaxation training
  • Exercise
  • Assertiveness training. Some women need to learn how to set limits with family members, in order that they do not become overwhelmed and overworked.
  • Medicine such as antidepressants

If you are experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression, please talk to your physician.

Tara Morse, D.O.Tara Morse, D.O. is an OB/GYN with Crescent City Physicians, Inc. – a subsidiary of Touro Infirmary.  A graduate of Des Moines University of Osteopathic medicine, Dr. Morse completed her residency in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Louisiana State University School of Medicine where she served as Chief Resident. She provides Obstetrics and Gynecology services at her mid-city office located at 4000 Bienville St.