Surviving the Baby Blues: Postpartum Depression

by Celeste E. Williams

It's tragic when we hear news of "normal mothers" purposefully killing their children. Postpartum psychosis, in some instances, can be the cause of these tragedies. Postpartum psychosis can be the end result of untreated postpartum depression.

Having a baby should be one of the happiest times of life. The reality is it can be overwhelming and lead to a syndrome known as "the baby blues". An estimated 80% of all mothers will experience mild depression a few days after giving birth. Baby blue symptoms consist of crying, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, lack of feeling for the baby and confusion. All of these are probably the result of a major drop in blood hormone levels after giving birth.

Forget the hormones, it's easy to see why anyone might be melancholic. Women are supposed to be happy, but they are usually sleep-deprived, physically exhausted and faced with the responsibility of a new baby. There can also be an emotional let down after the high of giving birth and unhappiness about one's appearance.

The baby blues usually resolves in a couple of weeks. However, if it lingers and intensifies, it may develop into postpartum depression, which affects as many 20% of women who give birth. It can develop up to a year after a child's birth. Some women are more at risk than others:

  • 1. Women with a previous mental illness or family history of mood disorders.
  • 2. Women with inadequate support systems.
  • 3. Women who experienced a complicated pregnancy or birth.
  • 4. Women who have difficult or fussy babies.
  • 5. Women with an unsatisfactory relationship with their significant other.

Symptoms of postpartum depression are constant, and debilitating, and there is also an intense worry over the safety and health of the baby. Rarely do they harm their baby. It's the one woman in a thousand who will develop postpartum psychosis, a dangerous condition marked by hallucinations, delusions, extreme confusion, frantic energy, and possibly violence.

Postpartum depression is a woman's disease, but ultimately it can affect every one in her family and the well being of her home.

Here's a self-help guide to help survive the baby blues and prevent depression.

1) Make sleep a top priority. So forget the housework and cooking and aim to get eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour period (husbands - read this at least 20 times because this is where you help).

2) Eat every 3 hours to keep blood sugar even and maintain a better mood. Empty stomachs will aggravate anxiety.

3) Socialize with other parents for reassurance. (Misery loves company).

4) Ask friends and family to be present and helpful (have them cook meals, clean, take the other kids out of house).

5) Recognize symptoms and seek help soon for the sake of mom's and baby's health.

© Celeste E. Williams

Celeste E. Williams,is a board certified OB/GYN, Dr. Williams is a fellow of the American Board of OB/GYN.