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Understanding Postpartum Depression

Prevention and Treatment

When you are trapped in the throes of postpartum depression it may seem like you will never be happy again. But with treatment, postpartum depression is a temporary condition that will pass in time, and there are steps you can take to relieve its symptoms or even prevent the onset in the first place.


Fortunately, doctors today accept the fact that postpartum depression is real, not just a figment of a woman's imagination, as some of their earlier counterparts insisted. Even though doctors can't explain the condition to their satisfaction and are unable to offer much in the way of concrete help, they take a woman's suffering seriously, offering sympathy, counsel and, in some cases, medication. They assure their patients they are not alone in experiencing depression, so they should not feel embarrassed, ashamed, or alarmed because they have difficulty coping with their new responsibilities. Many physicians discuss these feelings with expectant mothers before delivery and suggest ways to avoid the condition.


To help prevent postpartum depression, prepare yourself for the fact that not everything will be perfect. Remember this: Competence will come, as surely as it has in other areas you have learned about in your life. Infants can't judge the quality of their care, and by the time yours is old enough to know whether you are an expert, you will be one.

Anticipate some mood swings. Consider requesting rooming-in for your baby if your hospital offers such arrangements. Plan to have the best help you possibly can for the first few weeks, and try to cut down on social obligations or avoid them altogether for a time.

Doctors can also assure their patients that for plenty of women, the baby blues are short-lived. As new mothers acquire confidence in their roles as parents and regain their strength, most find their approach to life falls into a sensible perspective. They feel themselves again. It's when these feelings continue that there's cause for alarm.


To accommodate your physical tiredness and the baby's constant demands on you, you may have to review what is most important to you and make some changes in your lifestyle. If you are a perfectionist who has always insisted tasks be done the "right" way, you may find you must relax your exacting standards a bit. If you suffer from inertia, it may be necessary for you to grit your teeth and force yourself to arrange for the rest, moderate exercise, and proper nutrition that are so essential for you and often so difficult to achieve.

Often, helping yourself through this difficult period requires that you accomplish tasks and perform activities you simply don't feel like doing. For example, you should not allow yourself to skimp on good hygiene habits because you are too busy or too tired. To feel more in control, follow your usual daily routine: Dress completely every morning, do your hair, and use whatever cosmetics you usually do. And this is not the time to make demands on your strength and energy by beginning a diet.

Above all, don't try to bottle up your feelings in hopes they will go away if you ignore them. Talk about them with your partner, your doctor, your mother, or a friend who has experienced them already. Be in touch, if only by phone, until life settles down.

Every parent should get away from the routine of house and a new baby on a regular basis, and this escape is even more important if you experience postpartum depression. Even a brisk walk around the block helps when your partner or someone else can care for the baby, but an entire afternoon or evening out occasionally will do even more for you. As long as a reliable babysitter is in charge, do not feel guilty about these breathers.

More than the Blues

For some mothers, the symptoms are more profound. They last for two weeks or more, interfering persistently with sleep and affecting appetite. The mother is mired in hopeless depression and may find herself wishing the baby had never been born or even that he would die. In some cases, but not all, such an extreme reaction may be an indication that serious and unacknowledged psychological problems that existed before the birth were heightened by it. Professional help is needed; a physician can recommend a therapist.

The transition into motherhood is one of the greatest adjustments a woman can undergo in her lifetime. Many women feel down, inadequate and overwhelmed during the first few days or weeks. Fortunately, methods for preventing and curing postpartum depression are often highly effective. And in more profound cases, professional help is available.

©Publications International, Ltd.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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