Postpartum Depression

Are you feeling overwhelmed, irritable, or anxious after the birth of your baby? Are you sad and cry often?

You are not alone.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not your baby’s fault.

It’s ok to admit that you need help.

Please talk to your OBGYN or pediatrician about your symptoms, they won’t judge you.

Getting the appropriate help is imperative to ensuring the safety of both you and your baby.

What is perinatal depression?

Perinatal Depression (PND) is the most common obstetric complication in the USA. PND is a depressive disorder, which can occur during pregnancy or within the first year after the birth of a child. Close to 12% of all women who are pregnant or in the postpartum period experience depression. The peak incidence for minor depression is at 2 to 3 months postpartum, while for major depression is at 6 weeks postpartum. Interestingly, there is another peak for depression at 6 months postpartum. Unfortunately, many mothers are not getting diagnosed and treated appropriately for this condition.


What are the risk factors for Perinatal depression?

Family history of depression

Past medical history of depression

Substance use

Marital discord

Family violence

Isolation

Lack of an appropriate support system

Poverty

Difficult infant temperament

Young maternal age

Multiple births

Prenatal birth

Infant with congenital or acquired physical or developmental problems

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression (PPD), a subcategory of perinatal depression, ranges in spectrum from milder symptoms of postpartum blues to major depression.

As many as 50% to 80% of all mothers experience postpartum blues symptoms within the first two weeks after delivering their babies. Typically, symptoms include crying, sad mood, irritability, anxiety, and confusion. These symptoms are temporary and do not alter the mother’s ability to function properly.

However, if the depressive symptoms persist, or become severe, it is important to seek help. Postpartum depression (PPD) is considered a major depressive disorder. Very frequently moms with PPD experience anxiety as well.

There is an increased risk for a mom to develop PPD if she has experienced it with prior pregnancies. However, it can develop without a prior history of PPD with previous pregnancies.

Can dads get depressed after the birth of their children?

Surprisingly, not only moms experience PPD, up to 25% of fathers can experience it as well. Fathers with PPD are less likely to present with symptoms of sadness, but instead present with substance abuse issues, resistance to allow the mom to breastfeed, and domestic violence. It is important to assess the dads for PPD as they are considered the number one protective factor for the infants of mothers who are depressed.


What are the effects of maternal depression on the infant?

As you can imagine, maternal depression affects the whole family, but it can have serious effects for the infant and for other children in the household.  

Research on early brain development has shown that infants exposed to substantial maternal depression are at risk for toxic stress and its sequela. Toxic stress is defined as a harmful, continued activation of the physiologic stress response on an infant. Prolonged exposure to toxic stress can result on impaired social interaction and delays in language, cognitive, and social-emotional development for the infant.

What are the possible consequences of untreated postpartum depression?

Weakening of the mama-baby bonding

Lack of parent-child healthy attachment

Early discontinuation of breastfeeding

Maternal inaccurate perception of the infant’s behaviors

Maternal indifferent

Maternal controlling behavior

Impaired maternal attention and judgment for health and safety

Potential child abuse and/or neglect

In extreme cases, it can lead to suicide or infanticide

How are older children affected by PPD?

If the mom continues to suffer from depression and there is no intervention in place, the child’s developmental problems could persist and be less responsive to intervention over time.

Long-term effects of persistent exposure to untreated maternal depression can last through adolescence. These kids can experience social wariness, and withdrawal.  As they get older, they are likely to struggle with poor self-control, peer relationships, school problems, depression, anxiety, and aggression. Sadly, they are at increased risk of school failure as well.

Please share with any mama who needs to read this.

Together we can raise awareness about Postpartum depression.

Resources:

Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal Depression Into Pediatric Practice

​Screenin​g Recommendations

Infants, Family Are Affected by Mother’s Perinatal Depression