3 million cases are seen every year. And that's just the ones we know about. How is it that more attention is not being paid to this overwhelming problem?
I'm talking about Postpartum Depression. It's one of those topics that we tend to skip over when preparing for a baby, because we tend to think it will never happen to us. Or we decide we will deal with it once it's upon us, if that were ever to happen. It's a sad thing to think about amidst all the splendor of dreamy baby preparations, so we overlook it. While you can't completely prepare for every little detail about life with baby, some basic understanding of postpartum depression can go a long way toward preventing and dealing with it.
This is not at all meant to be a comprehensive education course on Postpartum Depression. In this post, I hope to provide you with some basic information, and I hope to provide encouragement if you are struggling.
There has been a lot of research done on postpartum depression, and yet we still have so much to learn. We do know that the cause can be physical or mental / emotional. Physically, a woman is recovering from birth, her hormones are readjusting to a new normal, she is likely not getting enough nutrition if she doesn't have enough help at home, and if she's breastfeeding, her lactation hormones are regulating. Emotionally, women can simply feel overwhelmed by the arduous task of caring for a new tiny person, particularly if their partner has returned to work, if she has returned to work, if there isn't enough support in the home for her, if she is isolated for much of the day, and if circumstances in her life are causing stress.
Symptoms of postpartum depression are pretty simple to observe. Past the baby blues, which generally only last a short time after birth, Postpartum Depression is more extreme and it lasts longer. Symptoms can present in a number of different ways, different times and for different reasons in women.
Some general signs to watch for:
Overall discontent and inability to feel pleasure
Sleeplessness, insomnia or excessive sleeping
Desire to hurt yourself or the baby
Inability to concentrate
Unexplained crying or irritability
Lack of interest
Women are more likely to experience PPD if they have:
A history of depression or postpartum depression
Had a cesarean
Not enough support at home after baby is born
Why do doulas care so much about postpartum depression?
After birth, it's 6 weeks until a woman sees her provider again. A lot can happen in a couple days, let alone 6 weeks. Do women routinely see any professional during that time? Home birth midwives see their clients several times between birth and 6 weeks, but other providers do not and only 3% of births in the US are attended by home birth midwives. Most women are sent home from the hospital a day or two after birth with their baby and no support.
What is one of the well known causes of postpartum depression? Lack of support.
The doula is in the unique position of being a perceptive eye in a sensitive time where there is very little support for women. She can see the mother in her own home, in her element. With a new baby, a lot can happen in 6 weeks!
A postpartum doula can, theoretically, help women prevent or curb postpartum depression. We know that postpartum depression can be caused by breastfeeding problems, stress, lack of support and other emotional stressors, and we know that the postpartum doula helps with all of these. Her job is to take care of the mom and baby so they can figure out life together after the birth. The mother does not need to stress about meals, housework or lack of sleep, since the doula helps the mother make sure she has all of those needs cared for. A woman's stress level goes way down when a postpartum doula is present.
Postpartum doulas specialize in caring for both mother and baby in the weeks after birth, but even getting support and help from a qualified baby nurse or nanny will go a long way toward providing mom with a break to get some self care.
If you are experiencing Postpartum Depression, it's so important to talk to your care provider. There are a number of ways that it can be dealt with, and your are provider is going to know you and your needs best. There are pharmaceutical medications available as well as nutritional supplements that can help.
Finally, if you are one that is struggling with postpartum depression, hang in there. There is help and there are available resources to get you through this understandably rocky time. You are no less of a mother because you are struggling with postpartum depression. And with 3 million known sufferers, you are absolutely not alone.
For more information, check out http://www.postpartum.net